Flirtingly glimpsed from beneath a long skirt or peeking from the end of harem pants, the feet of a dancer – though not the obvious focus – play an important part.
Our feet are a complex collection of 26 bones and 33 joints in a network of 126 muscles, ligaments, and nerves. On average we spend four hours a day on our feet and take between 8,000 and 10,000 steps. Compared to the rest of our body, our feet are very small and every step puts about 50% more than our body weight on them. In an average day our feet support a combined force equal to several hundred tons. In addition to supporting our bodies, our feet act as shock absorbers and move us forward, helping to balance and adjust our body on uneven surfaces.
Taking these facts into consideration we should not be surprised that our feet are vulnerable to injuries. Some factors that can increase the risk of injury are:
o Inexperience – beginners can be vulnerable to injury because they don’t have the skills to meet the physical demands of their chosen dance style. Follow the instructions of your teacher.
o Poor fitness – weak muscles are more likely to tear when challenged or stretched. Gradually increased progressions will improve your fitness and muscle strength.
o Poor technique – for example, bringing your foot down to the floor with more force than necessary can injure soft tissue and bone.
o Poor posture – weak muscles in the back and abdomen increase the risk of injury to all areas of the body including the spine and legs.
o Fatigue – a tired dancer tends to lose form. Falls and injuries caused by sloppy technique are more likely.
o Hazardous environment: worn or ripped carpet, hard floor, uneven floor, spilled liquids, or objects close to the dance area.
o Over work – dancing too long or too often can lead to a wide range of overuse injuries, particularly to the tendons and bones. Shin splints and stress fractures in the feet are common dance-related overuse injuries.
o Failure to rest an injury – returning to dance before an existing injury has healed can aggravate the condition. For example, injured knee ligaments may tear.
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