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.