Stepping back when you're injured doesn't mean you've failed as a dancer. Stocksnap

Injured? A Setback Can Be a Step Forward

I feel like a failure because I canceled a big competition after getting injured. I'd hoped that ending up in the finals might get me a position in a company. Now what?

—Devon, Washington, DC

Congratulations for acting like a seasoned pro! Dancing injured can cause greater damage to your body while also leaving an unfavorable impression on the judges. It's a lose–lose situation. However, by putting aside your desire to compete (and the excitement that goes with it), you now have time to focus on your recovery and get in peak condition for auditions.

In a study I conducted with the medical team at New York City Ballet and presented at the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science's annual meeting, we discovered that dancers who had a serious injury in the past practiced better work habits than newly injured dancers. This is because they knew how to take care of their bodies through a regimen that included cross-training, resting on their day off and getting a weekly massage or another rejuvenating treatment, like acupuncture. They did not perform injured.

While I know you're disappointed about missing the competition, taking the time to recover now will help you build positive habits you can use throughout your career. Your choice to take a step back means you're on your way to becoming a healthy professional.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at

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