How can I prevent injuries when I'm rehearsing new pieces most days and performing them at night? I've only been a corps member for a few years, but my body is starting to feel like a bag of bones.
—B.C., New York, NY
I'm not surprised that a demanding schedule is taxing your body. A large misconception in the dance community is that young performers can handle anything, so they're often given intense workloads. Although you may not be able to control your rehearsal and performance schedules, personal choices play a significant role in your physical well-being.
Before a busy season, you can prepare by balancing rest periods with cross-training and easy classes, instead of "dancing yourself into shape" by waiting until your company gets back to work. Once your layoff is over, pace yourself by conserving your energy when you can, since fatigue is the number one cause of injuries. It's also useful to take advantage of any physical therapy services your company offers to address early aches and pains and correct imbalances before they leave you sidelined.
Also know that female dancers with menstrual irregularities, which can delay skeletal maturity, are prone to stress fractures. If this affects you, make sure you're strengthening your bones with proper nutrition. Be aware that birth control pills have been found to mask the problem without decreasing the risk of fractures in female athletes who have an irregular cycle.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.