Well? What do you think?
Do dancers, the fine artists, have a higher injury rate than the more aggressive martial artists practicing Tae Kwon Do?
If you guessed that yes, ballet dancers have the higher injury rate, you are correct! I came across an interesting study showing this surprising conclusion the other day whilst nerding out on Pub Med.
In this recent study (March 2013) published in the Research in Sports Medicine journal, aplty titled Comparison of repetitive movements between ballet dancers and martial artists: risk assessment of muscle overuse injuries and prevention strategies, researchers looked at both ballet dancers and Tae Kwon Do artists to observe the differences in injuries of the two activities.
Both activities are similar in that they require a significant amount of flexibility, particularly at the hip (high kicks and fun things like that), yet the injury rate in Tae Kwon Do is much lower. And this despite the fact that Tae Kwon Do is clearly a contact sport.
Studies show that 64%-80% of professional dancers need to stop performing for extended periods due to Overuse Syndrome (OS). Although ballet and Tae-Kwon-Do seem to have similarities in muscle lengthening, the Tae-Kwon-Do injury rate is significantly lower.
Why? Tae Kwon Do was even found to be a higher intensity activity, so the intensity factor in ballet can be ruled out as the reason for their higher injury rate.
The methods used were 3D motion capture and biomechanical modeling. Six ballet dancers and five Tae-Kwon-Do artists participated in the study. The results show that intensity during Tae-Kwvon-Do is higher than that during ballet, particularly for small muscles. As intensity cannot be responsible for higher injuries, strength training for small muscles and shorter exercise duration in Tae-Kwon-Do may account for the reversed rate; consequently, this is a promising procedure for ballet training.
So there you have it. Despite the fact that Tae Kwon Do is a martial art with a higher intensity than ballet, requiring similar flexibility, the injury rate remains lower because they are STRONGER. Promising findings for ballet dancers indeed. Findings that correlate anecdotally with my own personal experience training dancers for strength.
Another interesting thing to note is that, in my humble opinion, the different psychology of the two activities could also be a factor in the high dance injury rate compared to martial arts. Whereas in many martial arts participants are taught to be “like water” and to master their minds, dancers often have highly stresful lives and suffer from anxiety, depression and body dysmorphic disorders.
Obviously it depends on the quality of instruction, but I believe that this focus on mind-body is an important aspect that gets ignored in dance, while for martial artists it is of supreme importance. An unhealthy, weak mind makes for an easily injured body, too.
Clearly this is something that requires more investigation, but its worth thinking about, for now.
So what are you waiting for? Science dictates you learn to strength train to prevent injuries. You can start HERE, with my 4 week online program for beginners. Go lift something heavier than your purse today, and follow up with some relaxing Zen.