GRUELLING training regimes are placing young ballet dancers at risk of serious injury, a new study has revealed.
The study, published by Sports Medicine Australia in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, found that extremely high and unvaried training loads, coupled with the impact of adolescent growth spurts, may predispose young pre-professional dancers to high levels of overuse injury.
The occurrence of injuries in 266 dancers aged 16-19 years from three elite ballet schools in London was monitored over the period of one school year.
Lead author Christina Ekegren at Monash University said more than three quarters of the dancers monitored sustained an injury over that period.
"Of the injuries sustained, a number were quite severe, with 23 of the 378 injuries requiring surgery, and as many as 60% requiring investigation through medical imaging," she said.
"Previous research has confirmed that dance, and in particular, ballet, is one of the most demanding physical activities undertaken by young people."
Bundaberg dance teacher Dianne McLellan said she understood those injuries could occur as young ballet dancers made the transition to full-time dancing.
"When that happens sometimes their bodies are not prepared," she said. "I'm very aware of that and am very careful with those children. We are very careful with warm-up and warm-downs."
Katrina Lane-Krebs whose daughter, Tiffany, recently competed at the National Dance Championships said sometimes young dancers were in too much of a hurry to go to an en pointe shoe which was seen as a rite of passage.
"One of the key injuries is damage to the foot because one of the bones has not been developed sufficiently to allow them to go up onto those blocks," she said. "Any professional dance school will do an assessment of the dancer prior to allowing them to use a dance shoe."
Ms Ekegren said overuse was the most common cause of injury, with 72% of injuries occurring as a result of overuse and likely exacerbated by high training loads without adequate recovery time.
"Given that injuries sustained by young dancers during their training often recur in their professional careers and are a leading cause of early retirement, if young dancers could avoid injury they could potentially extend their professional longevity.''