Common Dance Injuries and Injury Prevention Tips

24th February 2021

No matter what style of dance you perform, dancing requires a great deal of flexibility, strength and stamina. Hours of training, rehearsals and performances can be very demanding on a dancer’s body, especially lower body muscles and joints.

Dance injuries are therefore not uncommon amongst dancers of all ages. However, there is plenty that dancers can do to help prevent dance injuries during their practice and in day-to-day habits. In this blog, we will be exploring 9 common dance related injuries that occur in various genres of dance, such as achilles tendonitis in ballet. We will also share with you our top 5 tips on how to prevent injuries in dance.

Most Common Dance Injuries

The demanding nature of dance means that dancers can experience injury to a number of different areas of their bodies. Some of the most common dance injuries, however, are typically in the lower body, including the back, hips, feet and ankles. Knee injuries in dancers can also be one of the common side effects of dancing with poor form. The 9 most common dance injuries are:

  • Ankle sprains
  • Shin splints
  • Trigger toe
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Snapping hip
  • Cartilage tears
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
  • Dancer’s fracture
  • Back strain and spasms

Take a look at our top 9 common injuries for dancers in all genres, from ballet to jazz.

Ankle sprains

Ankle sprains are one of the most common acute ankle injuries in dancers. Often occurring as a result of overstretching the ankle ligaments by extending the joint beyond its normal range of motion. Particularly severe ankle sprains, or those left untreated and without rest, can cause tears in the ligaments within the joint which can lead to more severe pain after dancing.

Dancers with ankle sprains will experience pain on the inside and outside of their ankle, and in more severe cases, also experience swelling and visible bruising.

injured ballerina in pointes PYGW4ZV scaled | Professional Sprung & Vinyl Dance Floors | Harlequin Floors

Shin Splints in Ballet and Other Genres of Dance

Shin splints are another common dance injury. Shin splints often occur as a result of placing stress on the leg, and usually causes pain and tenderness along the shin. This can sometimes occur through dancing on a hard surface, placing stress on the leg after a period of inactivity, or using improper technique.

While shin splints can occur during any type of dance, shin splints in ballet are particularly common

“Trigger Toe” (Flexor Hallucis Longus Tenosynovitis)

Frequently referred to as “trigger toe”, this common dance injury is a result of damage to the muscle in the toes, particularly the big toe, when dancing en pointe. As a result, it can often be the cause of foot problems in ballerinas. Pain can occur along the inside of the ankle and extend under the foot, which can make the big toe feel stuck when pointing the feet.

Achilles Tendonitis in Ballet and Other Genres of Dance

Often as a result of over use of the achilles tendon through pointing the feet, achilles tendonitis causes inflammation along the back of a dancer’s ankle.

This injury is more prevalent in dancers who are consistently using improper form or training too much, and achilles tendonitis in ballet is particularly common. Tenderness and pain can be felt above the heel of the foot in those suffering from achilles tendonitis. This pain can often appear to reduce once warmed up, but achilles tendonitis in ballet can be aggravated by jumping or dancing en pointe.

ballerina having pain in ankle PPKD4KR scaled | Professional Sprung & Vinyl Dance Floors | Harlequin Floors

Snapping Hip Injuries in Dancers

Hip pain in dancers can often be caused by ‘snapping hip’, a very common dance injury. Dancers may experience a snapping or popping noise in the hip joint and some tenderness around the area. This noise is the result of a muscle or tendon moving over the hip bone with external rotation, often with developpé and battements.

Snapping hip is considered a long-term injury snapping hip injuries in dancers are usually treated through massaging, stretching and physical therapy centred around strengthening the hip and core.

Cartilage Tears

Cartilage is found in many areas of the body, but dancers are most likely to experience cartilage tears around the knees, particularly meniscus tears. The meniscus sits beneath the kneecap and can be torn or damaged when landing jumps incorrectly or overly twisting the knee. 

Meniscus tears can cause pain when extending the knee and jumping and are one of the most common knee injuries for dancers.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Jumper’s Knee)

Also known as ‘jumper’s knee’ Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome can be caused by the kneecap ‘tracking’ incorrectly as a result of a muscle imbalance, tight hamstrings and calves and weak quad muscles. This places repetitive force on the kneecap, causing pain in the joint.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome often occurs through jumps or pliés performed without proper form. Dancers may notice pain in the front of the knee when performing jumps and bending the knee. Dancers may also experience knee pain after dancing when climbing stairs.

Dancer’s Fracture

Dancer’s fracture is the name given to the fracture of the 5th metatarsal, the bone connecting the little toe to the midfoot. This fracture can occur when the ankle is rolled while the dancer is on their toes, causing immediate pain and some swelling in the foot.

This common dance injury can often heal in a few weeks, but on some occasions can require surgery.

physiotherapist putting bandage on injured feet of WUALCAH scaled | Professional Sprung & Vinyl Dance Floors | Harlequin Floors

Back strain and spasms

Strain to the dancer’s lower back is caused by tilting the pelvis downwards and arching the lower back frequently. This movement compresses the spinal joints, overloading pressure on the lower back area which can cause lower back pain after dancing. Back strain and spasms can also be a result of muscle imbalance between the back and abdominal muscles, and occurs more frequently in dancers who have a curvature in their lower spine.

Muscles can feel weak, or tight and often spasm while performing or resting.

5 Tips for Preventing Dance Injuries

Many of these common dance injuries, particularly those as a result of repetitive movement or strain, can be prevented with some small changes in dance practice and daily habits.

What are the five key factors to preventing a dance-related injury?

  • Proper shoes and dance clothing
  • Warming up and cooling down
  • Suitable dance flooring
  • Building strength and endurance
  • Using correct form at all times

At Harlequin, we understand how important it is to understand how to prevent dance injuries, which is why we are going to explore this dance injury prevention checklist in more detail.

Always wear proper shoes and clothing for dance

The first tip of our dance injury prevention checklist is to make sure you always wear appropriate dance clothing and shoes.

To prevent foot and ankle injuries in dance, ensure your feel and joints are properly supported for your style of dance, switching footwear where appropriate if you are moving between several different dance styles or classes.

shutterstock 218884606 | Professional Sprung & Vinyl Dance Floors | Harlequin Floors

Always warm up and cool down before and after practice

To avoid injuries such as lower back pain after dancing, it is important to warm up and cool down after practicing. Stretch or roll out sore muscles using a foam roller. This will help to prevent muscles from becoming strained and also help to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, ensuring proper form can be more easily maintained in dance training or performances over the following days.

If you do find yourself with an injury such as back pain from dancing, you may also want to consider physiotherapy.

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Practice dance on suitable dance flooring

Different dance styles will have different demands of their flooring, but it is important to always use the correct floor especially if practicing or performing for several hours at a time.

Sprung floors in particular are known to reduce pressure on dancer’s knees, legs and ankles as they absorb the energy exerted from leaps and jumps and return some of this energy to the dancer. Also, make sure to practice dance on flooring with suitable traction. 

Build strength and endurance to avoid dance related injuries

If you want to avoid common dance injuries, it is important that you build up your strength and endurance. Consider implementing exercises that build strength and endurance in all parts of the body to avoid muscle imbalances that can lead to many of the most common dance injuries, such as back strain and spasms. You can work these exercises into your warm up and cool down routines.

Ensure that correct form is always used

Our final tip for injury prevention in dance is to ensure you are always using the correct form and proper technique for whichever genre of dance you are practicing.

Using correct form in practice and performance can help to reduce unnecessary strain on muscles and joints which can lead to injury. Improper form can lead to shin splints in ballet, back strain and even dancer’s fracture.

Harlequin 2020 073 scaled | Professional Sprung & Vinyl Dance Floors | Harlequin Floors

Summary of the Most Common Dance Injuries and Tips for Injury Prevention in Dance

Although common dance injuries, such as achilles tendonitis and trigger toe, can affect dancers of all ages and across all genres, there is plenty that dancers and studio owners can do to help prevent these common types of dance injury.

Investing in the right flooring for your professional studio or for home practice can help to support dancer’s joints and muscles, working to prevent injuries from strains, jumps and falls.

Harlequin offer a range of performance and dance floors catering to different types of dance to ensure that all dancers can practice and perform at their best.

Browse our range of sprung dance floors and vinyl dance floors for studios and home dance practice kits for dancers practicing at home.

Want to find out more about how Harlequin can support you with finding the perfect dance flooring for your studio? Get in touch with us today and a member of our team will be more than happy to help. You can also take a look at our other blogs which contain more expert tips for dancers on a wide range of topics.