Heavy backpacks and hilly campuses can wear on a college dancer's body. Photo via Thinkstock
College can be hard on the body. Between late-night rehearsals, carrying backpacks around hilly campuses and long, sedentary study sessions, it's tough for dancers to give their bodies the care they need to prevent injury.
Here are the most common reasons college students get injured—and our top tips for prevention.
The Problem: Their bodies are still developing.
Men may experience late growth spurts in college. Photo via Unsplash
The Solution: Male dancers may experience rare, late growth spurts their first year in college, and may feel tight, achy and off-balance as a result. They should avoid overstretching, and give themselves some leeway in their technique until they feel normal again, says Lauren McIntyre, clinical specialist and athletic trainer at The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Health. Even older students are still developing, and should be consuming adequate calories to support their growth and overall performance. They should also get frequent wellness screenings: An 18-year-old body is very different from a 21-year-old one.
The Problem: They haven't developed a personal warm-up and cross-training practice.
Don't be tempted to replace warming up with stretching. Photo via Thinkstock
The Solution: Try out warm-up and conditioning exercises, find what works for you, and be religious about it. If you don't have time to warm up between classes, get creative, suggests Nancy Kadel, MD, orthopedic surgeon and co-chair of the Dance/USA Task Force on Dancer Health. Try jogging and swinging your arms on your way to class to get your heart rate up, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. The goal is to break a light sweat. And remember: Stretching is not warming up.
The Problem: They are fatigued and stressed.
Prioritize sleep, especially during times of intense studying or rehearsing. Photo by Sean Kong via Unsplash
The Solution: It's normal for college students to run on little sleep. But most injuries happen when dancers are fatigued, says McIntyre. Plan sufficient sleep into your schedule—particularly around times of demanding exams or performances—and know that as a dancer, the typical college lifestyle won't necessarily work for you.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB
We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.
Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.
We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.