Medicine to Help Dancers Build Performance and Resist Injury

Posted on 
August 16, 2022

“It takes more than talent to become a successful dancer: a lot of hard work and sacrifice are required as well. It is a difficult profession: stress and workloads are high, and there is little time for rest and self-care,” says Andrea Wilson, Forté Sports Medicine and Orthopedics’ dance medicine specialist.  

There will be risk, too, she cautions, because performing the most fluid and beautiful dance movements often means causing micro trauma to muscles and tendons. In fact, one study evaluating health-related problems among ballet dancers found that ballet artists were affected by "the physical workload, the high risk of injuries, and constant stress."

Andrea Wilson understands the challenges of life in dance from her own professional career as a ballet dancer. That career ended with serious knee injuries that brought her to Forté for surgery and rehabilitation. Her experiences inspired her to become a physical therapist herself, and to specialize in working with dancers.

Now in her eighteenth year in practice, Andrea serves as dance medicine therapist at Forté, spending time each week as the physical therapist for Indianapolis Ballet and Dance Kaleidoscope performers; many of the other patients she serves are professional dancers or students headed for competitive dance or performing careers.

“The advantage of Forté is that we bring a team approach: the physicians really appreciate the needs of dancers and understand that the goal is to keep dancing. As a former dancer, I can go deeply into the specifics of technique and how it affects a dancer’s injury, how the dancer can safely bridge their rehabilitation from the clinic to the studio and stage. The physicians and physical therapists are in frequent communication about our patients, so that there is as much consistency and clarity as possible for the dancer throughout the recovery process,” says Andrea.

Dance medicine is not the same as orthopedic care for athletes, Andrea explains, because dance movements are unique and demand extreme flexibility. Rehabilitation for dancers emphasizes technique correction as well as strength and mobility to improve faulty body mechanics that contribute to injury. 

“We’ve seen promising results at Forté with our professional dancers who now have access to early rehab and preventive maintenance.” Andrea is happy to report, dancers are improving some of their chronic issues and have less time lost from dance due to new injuries.

Yes, there will be sacrifice and there will be risk. But with less time lost to injury, dancers can continue to perform at all levels. Request an appointment to learn how you can benefit from dance medicine.

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