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Revisiting Overuse Injuries in Dance in View of Motor Learning and Somatic Models of Distributed Practice

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One hallmark of dance education is rigorous and repetitive physical practice. Of the many unifying theories of motor learning, the “power law of practice” states that repetitive practice of physical movements is a necessary ingredient in improving performance. Compelling evidence exists, however, showing that practice conditions where rest intervals are interspersed between movement repetitions (“distributed practice”) play a strategic role in the acquisition and consolidation of learning motor skills. Further, repetition without adequate rest is implicated in overuse syndrome and has injurious consequences in both the peripheral and central nervous system. This article summarizes the research from neuroscience and motor learning on distributed practice conditions within the context of overuse injuries in dance. The neural consequences of repetitive movement without rest (adequate rest-to-activity ratios) are discussed. Schedules designed to promote motor skill learning and avoid overuse (adopted in somatic education, sports, and martial arts) are reviewed in the light of the current philosophy underlying dance practice schedules. Finally, the paper points to need for future research in designing protocols with higher rest-to-activity ratios in dance classes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor in the Program in Physical Therapy, Winston-Salem State University, 601 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27100;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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