Dancers have one of the highest injury rates among athletes and performing artists. Below is a story that I wrote last year about a dance major, now an alumni of the Division of Dance, facing an injury and how she overcame her struggles. Also featured below is an article published by The Post about current junior dance major Becky Sebo.
Kelsey Maiolo’s Story
Kelsey Maiolo, senior dance major at Ohio University, was about to go on stage for what would be one of the final dance performances of her career at OU. With only about an hour left before the show, the dancers had one final dress rehearsal. During her piece, “The Missing Peace” Maiolo came down on the floor wrong, dislocating her patella.
Luckily, dance medicine specialist, Jeff Russell was at the scene to treat Maiolo’s injury on the spot. Russell, assistant professor of athletic training, came to OU this year with the goal of creating a performing arts medicine program to help provide healthcare for performing artists and teach students how to prevent injuries.
“Many healthcare workers and athletic trainers do not know how to treat performers and dancers,” Russell said. “We need to increase the number of healthcare workers who have direct contact with dancers and know how to treat them.”
Dancers have a very high injury rate. For pre-professional and professional dancers the injury rate ranges from 67 to 95 percent, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science. Dancers need to be given the correct care so that they can continue their careers.
Dance Medicine is a branch in the field of performing arts medicine that deals with the medical treatment of dancers and injuries specific to dancers. Dance medicine is often confused with dance therapy, which is a method of psychological treatment in which movement is used to express emotions or relieve stress.
In a study written in 2005 in the Dance Research Journal, author Jatin Ambegaonkar, researcher at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said “Dance injuries are referred to as the ‘orphan child’ in the sports medicine family, with dancers representing a medically underserved occupational group.”
Communication between healthcare workers and injured dancers has become an increasing problem. Many dancers fail to seek any medical attention for their injuries and when they do they often encounter a medical professional with little knowledge of dance-related injuries, according to the article.
The study reported that 20 percent of medical practitioners who were surveyed had never observed dance and therefore had a difficult time treating dancers. For this reason, many dancers do not trust medical professionals to treat their injuries, fearful that they will tell them to stop dancing all together.
The importance for a medical professional to be partnering with the dancer and the dancers teacher or choreographer in order to monitor the dancer progress in class or during rehearsals was also discussed in the study. It is very rare for a dancer to have access to a medical professional in close proximity to them unless it is a dance specialist hired specifically to treat dancers in the specific school or company.
Researchers also reported that 24 percent of medical professionals thought that it was at least moderately important for dancers to understand basic human anatomy to understand their own injuries.
By educating medical professionals and dancers about injuries and how to prevent them, dancers will be able to feel more confortable going to medical professionals for help and less injuries will occur and dancers will be able to get the treatment that they need.
University programs focusing on dance science are becoming more popular all across the globe and especially in the United States.
The International Association of Dance Medicine and Science provides information for students about educational opportunities to pursue careers in dance medicine. Over 30 universities across the globe offer programs or courses in dance medicine, according to the IADMS database, including 17, in the U.S.
Universities such as California State University and Goucher College in Maryland, offer concentrations in dance science that give students the ability to take biology classes and work in a clinic to learn about the body and how to treat specific injuries.
Indiana University and Case Western University offer degrees and classes in kinesiology, the study of human movement, helping to better educate dancers about their own bodies.
Russell has worked to create similar programs in other universities including Belhaven University in Mississippi and the University of California, Irvine.
OU’s program is one of the first programs to focus on giving medical attention to not to only dancers, but to all performing artists.
The Division of Athletic Training in conjunction with the College of Fine Arts at OU is developing a program in performing arts medicine. This initiative comprises three facets: clinical, educational, and research.
“We are trying to be a pioneer in this area at Ohio University and provide support for our students in performing arts,” Russell said.
Russell is working to create a program in which dancers can take classes similar to an exercise physiology or physical therapy major, for those students who wish to pursue a career in performing arts medicine, sports medicine or physical therapy.
“Offering more classes in this field will build an interest in dance medicine and offer other career options for our students to pursue,” said Travis Gatling, interim dean of The School of Dance.
Classes in kinesiology are required for dance majors at OU but Russell hopes to offer more classes in performing arts medicine starting as soon as summer 2013.
Before Russell came to OU, the closest students could get to a degree in dance science was to major in Physical Therapy with a minor in dance, Gatling said.
Gatling is also excited for the hands-on experience that students will gain from working in the clinic that Russell has helped to create. The clinic, formerly the student lounge on the third floor of Putnam Hall, houses a sprung dance floor, mirror, barre, examination table and other equipment that Russell uses to treat performing artists.
“It is important that we have a specialized facility that is designed to take care of dancers and other performers because performing artists are very much athletes,” Russell said. “We take care of them in much the same way that we take care of athletes that play football, basketball, baseball or volleyball.”
Not only is support available to students through the clinic, but Russell and his team of students are also available during every performance that The School of Dance puts on. They set up a temporary clinic backstage where performers can go if they get injured during a performance.
“Dr. Russell was there when the injury occurred. I went straight to him and his team and they did an examination on the swollen area,” Maiolo said.
Miaolo is grateful that The School of Dance has someone like Russell to take care of the dancers. She said that he even told her that he would treat her as if she was his daughter and gave her everything she needed to have a successful recovery process.
“Dr. Russell understands the importance of our careers and wants to do everything he can to help us succeed. If he was not there to tell me I had a very serious injury, I know that I would have gone back to dancing and just brushed it off, until something worse happened and I was out of dance for the rest of my life,” Miaolo said.
Check out my post for more about the SHAPe Clinic at http://ouonstage.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/ou-opens-treatment-facility-for-performing-artists/
Becky Sebo’s Story
Check out this story by The Post about current junior dance major, Becky Sebo, who is also currently dealing with an injury. http://thepost.ohiou.edu/content/passion-and-pain-often-one-and-same