Injuries Impacting Professional Dancers

Injury-Prevention Tips from Joffrey Dancers Help Recreational Athletes

Injury-Prevention Tips from Joffrey Dancers Help Recreational Athletes

Professional dancers, like professional athletes, are subject to injury because of the constant stress they put on their bodies. And while these dancers and athletes have dedicated medical teams to attend to their needs, recreational athletes can learn from their experience.

“Dancers in a lot of ways are similar to everyday athletes who want to stay in shape and have fun,” says Simon Lee, MD, foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and medical director for The Joffrey Ballet.

Just like dancers, recreational athletes can experience stress fractures, sprained ankles, tendinitis and knee issues. To prevent such injuries, it’s important to start with a good warm-up.

“I don’t think people realize how much time dancers spend warming up and stretching,” Lee says. “Recreational athletes are pressed for time and want to compress their athletic activity, but that’s the way injuries occur. The older we get the more important it is to get warmed up and stretch.”

Joanna Wozniak, a full member of the Joffrey since 2003, can rattle off a list of aches, pains and injuries she has suffered because of her physically demanding profession. To prevent injuries, Wozniak, like the other Joffrey dancers, starts with a daily 90-minute class of classical ballet exercises to warm up the body.

“Every movement is important to work every different muscle system, just like every brick is important for the foundation in a house,” she says. The class is followed by six hours of rehearsal, during which dancers learn the movements of new choreography and eventually start running through the whole dance.

In addition to dancing, Wozniak is on the move in other ways. She goes for walks, rides her bike, runs to build stamina, takes Pilates classes to strengthen her core muscles and practices Bikram yoga and other forms of yoga for stretching.

“It’s good to practice different forms of exercise because they use different muscles,” Wozniak says. “It’s like rotating the tires on a car because it slows down wear and tear.”

Cross-training with other sports and strengthening core muscles is critically important for recreational athletes, Lee says. He recommends adding cycling or swimming to help maintain body balance, strength and flexibility.

“Running is probably one of the worst activities to do consistently every day,” Lee says, “because it only works certain parts of your lower body in one direction — straight — and causes a lot of issues, such as overuse in the ankles and knees that are mainly strengthened on the anterior and posterior sides.”

“So many of us are constantly getting hurt and in pain that it becomes difficult to differentiate between what is a normal ache or pain and what needs more care and attention,” Wozniak says.

Wozniak takes care of some problems on her own by stretching, staying hydrated and using hot compresses or ice. But when her arm started turning purple and swelling, it was time to consult with Rush doctors. She was quickly diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which restricts normal blood flow to the arm. In her case, the condition was caused by overuse of her arms. She had surgery to have a rib removed in order to alleviate the problem.

Whether you’re a professional dancer or a recreational athlete, ongoing aches and pains are worth a consultation with a medical professional. “We have a knowledge of physiology and anatomy so we know what can be problematic and what can be ignored or pushed through,” Lee says.

Wozniak, who is 33 and has been dancing since age 7, is so passionate about dancing that she is motivated to do what it takes to maintain and improve the quality of her performance, but recreational athletes may not always be predisposed to work out consistently.

To improve the fun factor of staying fit, Lee suggests recreational athletes participate in a group sport such as flag football or a pick-up basketball league. “When you work out together there is the camaraderie of teammates working to achieve a goal,” he says.

Wozniak finds that camaraderie at the Joffrey. “We all care a lot about each other and support each other,” she says. “We’re like a family.”

Wozniak recently performed in a dance called “Body of Your Dreams” that spoofed the notion that quick fixes can help you effortlessly achieve the ideal physique. “I think people can get caught up in the trap of the importance of the perfect body image,” she says, “but you have to put things in perspective and find happiness and fulfillment in other ways.” And working out safely and preventing injury can help achieve that goal.

Share this:

Aging Atletes and Their Joints.

Steve Kashul talks with Dr. Craig Della Valle from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush about aging athletes and their joints. Are we getting joint replacements at a younger age and what factors in a more active lifestyle contribute to joint problems.

Dr. Della Valle is a native of New York and received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  He completed his residency at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City.  During his residency he spent a full year devoted to clinical and basic science research in the field of adult reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Della Valle completed a fellowship in adult reconstructive surgery at Rush University Medical Center and Central DuPage Hospital.

He is presently the Aaron G. Rosenberg Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Chief of the Section of Adult Reconstruction at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Craig Della ValleDr. Della Valle is a busy clinician who specializes in primary and revision total joint arthroplasty.  A respected researcher, he has more than 180 peer reviewed publications on topics including unicompartmental, primary and revision total knee arthroplasty as well as total hip arthroplasty, hip resurfacing and revision total hip arthroplasty.

Dr Della Valle is a member of The Hip Society, The Knee Society and The International Hip Society. He currently President for the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, Member at Large for the Knee Society and Secretary of the Hip Society.

Share this:

Ask the Doctor!

This regular segment of ‘Ask the Doctor’ addresses questions submitted by Sports Medicine Weekly followers. Dr. Nik Verma from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush will be discussing:

  • Recovery time required for a young baseball player after an elbow injury
  • Controversial use of a weighted ball conditioning program to increase throwing velocity

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

If you have a question to be addressed on an upcoming show, please click here to submit your question.

Share this:

A Season of Football Head Impacts Does Not Affect Balance

Image result for athlete balance exercises

There is considerable public concern about the effects of repetitive football head impacts on a player’s brain health. Many studies suggest a link between head impacts and poorer health. Safe and efficient walking and balance are critical for activities of daily living and can reflect a person’s overall health.

In this study, investigators evaluated 34 collegiate football players who wore head impact sensors and compared their walking and balance to 13 cheerleaders before and after a single season at two different colleges. Surprisingly, there was no worsening of walking or balance performance in the football players over the course of the season compared to their status before a season or compared to the cheerleaders. The helmet sensor data showed that these players, on average, were exposed to 538 impacts over the course of the competitive season. However, neither the number of impacts nor the force of the impacts had much influence on walking or balance performance measures in the athletes.

The conclusion of this study is that repetitive football head impacts did not affect walking or balance performance over a single season. The possible effects of these impacts over multiple seasons or in later life remain unknown.

For more information, view the abstract

American College of Sports Medicine

Share this: