Undertaking In House Research
There are some notable areas of dance medicine and science research in the UK, where we are lacking substantial data but where that data could be gathered and analysed relatively simply with your co-operation and a small amount of additional investment in time. The information and knowledge that the dance sector as a whole, as well as the organisation and dancers themselves, might gain from this is extensive. It may therefore be worth seriously considering undertaking and investing in some in house research, if you aren’t already.
Some key areas discussed further below are:
In order to obtain the most accurate and detailed picture of injury prevalence, causes, trends and the health status of dancers, it is necessary to collect data on their health and injury on an ongoing basis. Ongoing data collection of this kind has long been conducted in sports and medicine settings and is often referred to as epidemiological research. Epidemiology refers to the observational, or descriptive, study of patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in specific populations. This kind of data collection and analysis has been hugely informative in a number of different sports and with suitable electronic or even internet-based injury monitoring systems in place we can also vastly improve communication between medical practitioners, coaches and dancers. With time built in to properly analyse the data collected we can observe trends and changes to dancers’ health and fitness through time and make adjustments to training and preparation for performance as appropriate. Ultimately resulting in improved provision for dancers’ health, fitness and performance.
What can you do?
Ideally data will be collected by the medical practitioner seeing the injured dancer, at the time they are being seen. All medical practitioners are required to take notes relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of the injuries dancers come to see them about. However, by collecting basic additional information on the context and circumstances pertaining to each injury, and inputting this data into an electronic database for later analysis, we can discover so much more about the causes of injury and the effectiveness of training regimes. For example, it may become clear that more injuries are occurring at a particular point in the season, or that a particular type of injury is related to a certain piece in the repertory. Once we know these things we can plan more effectively for the future.
For an example of the kind of additional information it would be useful for us all to be collecting on dancers’ injuries see our sample injury monitoring form. If you would like to discuss how to support staff in recording, monitoring and analysing dancers’ health and injury, and systems to help with this, please contact the Healthier Dancer Programme.
Lastly, NIDMS is currently in the process of applying for funding to carry out the first dance specific, prospective, large-scale, multi-site epidemiological research study. If your institution or company are interested in being involved please get in touch with the NIDMS Manager.
Screening / profiling
In order to begin to understand more fully the relationships between a dancer’s structure and function and their performance, or risk of injury, it is useful for those working with dancers as well as the dancers themselves, to have a clear understanding of their overall baseline health and fitness. Once a baseline is established for each individual it is then possible to observe any changes over time due to effective training programmes, the rigours of dance life, or an injury. ‘Screening’ (or ‘profiling’) therefore is a word given to describe the observation and measurement of a number of parameters thought to affect dance performance and likelihood of injury; such as aerobic/anaerobic fitness, jump height, joint range of motion, strength and flexibility, core stability, anthropometrics and medical / injury history.
A large amount of discussion is taking place in the dance medicine and science world over exactly what, how and when should be screened. So far there is no overall consensus apart from to say that screening appropriate to the needs of each particular group of dancers is useful for the medical practitioners and trainers working with them and can be a valuable educational tool for the dancers themselves. At the very least dancers should be screened upon joining a new company / school so that everyone has an understanding of their healthy working body and any ‘niggles’ or potential problems that may have gone un-treated can be addressed straight away.
What can you do?
Setting up a screening program within your institution or organisation can be an involved process, however there are many effective programs already in place in UK-based institutions who may be willing to assist you. There is a growing body of information on which measures different dance medicine and science practitioners are finding it most useful to screen, as well as how best to conduct these measurements. The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science also has a useful resource paper on screening.
What will help further our understanding of injury prevention and performance enhancement even more, is if more dance practitioners become involved in this very practical, directly applicable area of research. If you would like to discuss this further before embarking on your own screening programme please contact the Healthier Dancer Programme.
Keeping a training diary can help complete the story around any health or performance-related problems that dancers experience. Used to gather information about a dancer’s health, well-being and working practice they can contribute to forming a well-rounded insight into the causes, effective prevention and treatment of dance injuries. This is particularly effective when used alongside longitudinal monitoring of dancers’ injuries by the medical practitioners treating them, and screening information that provides a scientific baseline of health and fitness parameters.
What can you do?
A template for training diaries is available following a two-year project titled “The Healthy Dancer Diary”, which was piloted with a number of Dutch dance organisations. The collaborating organisations were representative of the dance world and included two professional dance companies, two other vocational dance schools and a group of freelance dancers.
The diary required dancers to complete the following information on a daily or weekly basis:
– Resting heart rate
– Hours sleep
– Sleep quality
– Muscle soreness
– General tiredness
– ‘Appetite to dance’
– Recovery measures
– Stress levels
– Physical activity (type, hours and mental and physical intensity)
(the above all employ a sliding scale scroll-bar, low to high)
– Injury and illness reports (as applicable)
– Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire.
A similar form could be drawn up and requested for dancers to complete, ideally electronically. Electronic data, collected via a database system or simple online survey website allows for automatic analysis and easier data management. If you would like to discuss these ideas further before embarking on your own training diary program please contact the Healthier Dancer Programme.