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Injury in Professional Irish Dancers

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Despite the evolution of Irish dance to professional status in recent decades, only scant investigation of musculoskeletal pain and injury among professional Irish dancers (PIDs) has been undertaken. This study investigated the rate of injury and associated factors among 178 PIDs, using an online questionnaire. One hundred and thirty-seven PIDs (76.7%) reported a previous injury, with the foot (67.9%) and ankle (60.6%) most commonly affected. A mean career rate of 2.25 injuries per dancer was computed. The majority of injuries were minor in nature, and almost half occurred midway through a tour. Sixty subjects (33.7%) reported that they often or always danced in pain. The main contributory factors to injury were accidents, fatigue or overwork, repetitive movements, and unsafe stages. Warm-up (98.8%) and cool-down (84.3%) were almost universally practised, with cross-training engaged in by 124 PIDs (74.7%). Popular treatments used to prevent and manage injuries were massage (N = 137, or 83.0% of PIDs), stretching (N = 117, or 70.1%) and physiotherapy (N = 105, or 62.9%). There was a moderate level of psychological distress among the participants, with "interpersonal difficulties" and "tension with people" the main problems cited. PIDs who were older (p = 0.008) and more experienced (p = 0.002) reported missing a greater number of performances due to injury. There were no other significant relationships between injury and factors, including gender, frequency of dancing in pain, use of warm-up, cool-down, or cross-training. Further prospective studies of PIDs should consider both physical and biopsychosocial elements to generate an appropriate screening process to predict those at risk of injury.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Clinical Therapies, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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