The adolescent dancer faces unique challenges due to physical and emotional changes that occur during pubertal development. Rapid growth periods can lead to reduced strength, impaired balance, and decreased flexibility, which can alter technical ability and increase the risk of injury.
Growth spurts in dancers usually occur between the ages 11-15 in girls and 13-17 in boys, and can last up to two years (IADMS 2000). As height increases, weight gain also occurs. A girl’s menstrual cycle begins during these growth phases and is essential for formation of bone. The pressure to stay thin during periods of weight gain in addition to being unaware of/ignoring nutritional needs results in an energy deficit and increases the likelihood of irregular periods (Delegate 2018). Bones grow at a faster rate than muscles and tendons, and limbs grow at a faster rate than the trunk. This affects strength, flexibility, and balance control in dancers. These changes can make movement feel awkward and may affect your ability to perform at the level that you are used to. Don’t be discouraged, these changes are temporary!
The injury rate increases by 35% as dancers reach ages 14-16. Body regions most commonly affected are the foot/ankle, lumbar spine, hips, and knees (Steinberg 2012, Delegate 2018).
Common injury types in adolescents:
REDUCING INJURY RISK DURING GROWTH CHANGES:
1)Education Committee (Kathryn Daniels, Chair). International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. November 2000 https://www.iadms.org/page/1
2) Delegete, A. Health Considerations for the Adolescent Dancer. A webinar through the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. Accessed September 23, 2018.
3) Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., Zeev, A., & Hershkovitz, I. (2012). Extrinsic and intrinsic risk factors associated with injuries in young dancers aged 8–16 years. Journal of sports sciences, 30(5), 485-495.
4) Steinberg, N., Siev-Ner, I., Peleg, S., Dar, G., Masharawi, Y., Zeev, A., & Hershkovitz, I. (2013). Injuries in female dancers aged 8 to 16 years. Journal of athletic training, 48(1), 118-123.