‘Psychology of Dealing with the Injured Dancer’

I found an interesting article by Krasnow, Kerr and Mainwaring in ‘Medical Problems of Performing Artists’ (1994) which explores the practical and psychosocial barriers which prevent dancers from seeking medical assistance following injury and how some of these barriers can be removed.

“Although the majority of dancers report experiencing pain during or after class, few cease training because of injuries.” 97% of dancers studied (amateur and freelance rather than professionals with access to medical treatment on site) reported having been injured but only 20% reported these injuries. Of the 20% that did report injury, 43% carried on dancing despite doctors’ warnings. (Robson and Gitev, 1991). This makes dancers highly prone to reinjury.

The researchers found the main problems encountered by dancers were:                              *Not enough medical professionals with training in dance medicine                                        *Long waiting lists for treatment                                                                                                        *Most dancers injuries are chronic or due to overuse rather than traumatic so therefore are not seen as an emergency                                                                                                               *If a dancer is asked to temporarily stop dancing they appraise this traumatic and ‘impossible’ perhaps due to short careers, fear of deconditioning, losing technique, delay of graduation (university or college students) and pressure from above (teachers, choreographers, companies etc.)

The recommendations Krasnow, Kerr and Mainwaring give at the end of their study are to increase expertise in dance medicine, work on better dialogue between medical professionals and dancers, counselling for dancers, “educate dance teachers and choreographers about their roles in injury prevention, recognition, acceptance and rehabilitation.” Education is also needed for teachers, choreographers and companies to reduce overuse injuries.

Having suffered from an injury for a number of years (5 but only sought treatment 2 years ago) I agree with much of the research study. Perhaps most interestingly for me, however, given the research we have been asked to conduct I think I probably am a teacher (amongst the majority in the dance teaching profession although perhaps this needs investigated too) who, rather than allowing dancers to rest, push too far and teach with a ‘mind over matter’ philosophy. I did it as a child so I expect those I teach to do it too. This leads me to possible research questions in light of ‘what do I want to find out?’ which relate to both my area of interest and the overarching inclusivity agenda.

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