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Injury prevention for dancers

July 29, 2021

Entranced by the grace and agility of ballet dancers, we often fail to recognize that these dancers are athletes performing a physically-demanding activity. Ballet dancers often experience injuries that require the help of experts. Taking proactive measures can help dancers avoid pain and physical limitations.

Avoiding injury is just what Megan Brock, DPT, a physical therapist in Siskin Hospital’s Cleveland Outpatient Therapy clinic, seeks to help young dancers do. As an instructor on injury prevention at Chattanooga Ballet’s Summer Intensive, she trains dancers to be sensitive to the strain put on their bodies and know how to meet the physical demands in a safe way.

“Ballet is a somewhat unnatural art form,” says Megan, a former dancer who started ballet at two years old. “Here we are, turning our feet out to the side and dancing on the very tips of our toes. It can cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.”

Megan knows by experience – she minored in dance as an undergraduate and was active in ballet until she experienced an injury. Physical therapy (PT) helped her recover and was the catalyst to her pursuing a career in PT. She obtained a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Emory University, where she also earned a master’s in public health.

“Dancers really need to be proactive with their health,” she says. “Now as a PT, it’s really neat to look back on my time as a ballet dancer and remember what was challenging and what was scary during injury and help dancers through that.”

Because a lot of injuries come from an imbalance of muscle groups, Megan works particularly with areas of a dancer’s body that can become tight or weak – stretching out the front of the hips, strengthening the abdominals, and other techniques that keep them healthy and dancing at their best.

In her practice, Megan regularly treats dancers, as well as orthopedic and vestibular patients. She was introduced to the Chattanooga Ballet after treating a dancer and was subsequently invited to lecture for a few hour-long seminars during the regular season in 2019/2020. She then joined the Summer Intensive in 2020 and again 2021.

“I like to emphasize to dancers to take good care of their bodies, including good sleep habits, eating the right things and stretching/warming up properly,” she says. “And then enhancing those processes during really stressful times, such as when preparing for performances.”

It’s a good approach for all of us to consider, as well.