Dancer Injury: When Do You Need to Go to the Doctor?
Not sure if you should go see a doctor about a possible dancer injury? Let’s walk through some steps to make sure you take the best care of a dancer possible.
How Does a Dancer Injury Happen?
Dancing is an athletic activity, and even the best dancers can land off balance or turn an ankle the wrong way.
Contemporary-Dance.org has a list (and some basic treatment options!) of some of the most common dance injuries, in order of seriousness:
2. Muscle or ligament tear (or strain).
7. Overload (chronicle fatigue) syndromes.
8. Vascular syndromes.
Like the article describes, there are a variety of ways a dancer injury can come about. There’s the more obvious fall, or rolled ankle, or shooting pain that a dancer can easily describe. A sudden dancer injury like that might be characterized by:
- Immediate swelling
- Limited mobility
- Significant pain
With a sudden dancer injury, where there’s concern of a possible sprained muscle, torn ligament, or fractured bone, it’s usually best to head to the doctor as soon as possible. While it might not merit a hospital visit (although it might, use your best judgment!!), a dancer injury that ends up being significant but isn’t diagnosed often gets significantly worse with repeated use.
And that’s the second way for injuries to come about: repetitive strain on a muscle or bone, that over time can eventually become a more acute dancer injury.
Steps to Take Right Away
Immediately after a student has reported a possible injury, or you’ve noticed swelling or painful movement, the best treatment is a well-established method in the sports and physical health realm: R.I.C.E.
According to UPMC, the R.I.C.E. Method consists of four steps:
For the next 24-48 hours, limit (or better yet, completely avoid) any movement or weight-bearing actions on the injured area.
Over that same period of 24-48 hours, ice the affected area for 15-20 minutes every few hours, to help reduce swelling and pain.
Wrap the affected area with a bandage, but not too tight! You want to keep swelling down, but you want to be sure that the area maintains good circulation. If the dancer feels numb, tingling, more pain, more swelling, then the wrap is probably too tight.
Keeping the affected area elevated will continue to reduce swelling, and will also keep the dancer off his/her feet while the injury can be assessed (back to the R, rest, portion).
So, Do We Need to Go to the Doctor?
As a best practice, it is always better to get a professional assessment of a possible dancer injury.
Without figuring out the cause of the injury, or confirming that an injury has happened, you’ll set the dancer up to cause more repetitive damage over time. An X-Ray or other diagnostic test can help the doctor determine the severity of an injury, and from there you’ll be able to set up a recovery plan.
Dance Spirit has an article that goes through some ways to talk to your doctor within the context of dancing. For example, dancers have a distinct advantage in that they can continue to attend class or benefit from exercise while making sure to avoid using an injured area. Check out the third paragraph, where you can learn how to avoid the “Absolutely No Dancing” decree from your doctor.
Either way, notice how you ended up at the doctor’s office! It’s way better to run some tests and find out that your dancer is NOT injured, but MUST avoid certain movements for two weeks, than to let him/her continue dancing and end up in the emergency room with a torn muscle or fractured bone.
The sooner you figure out the injury and the cause for the injury, the sooner the dancer can be on his/her way to a healthy recovery.