Just like any sport, dance is a very physically demanding craft. That means that just like athletes, dancers are prone to injuries. As a matter of fact, injury rates are as high as 97% among dancers.
While we try to be as cautious as possible by taking care of any aches and pains, and by strengthening our bodies, sometimes they're inevitable. There are many reasons why injuries occurs. It can be due to overworking a certain muscle, landing a jump wrong, or falling. Nevertheless, injuries are painful, frustrating and terrifying. Yes, we know it's part of what we do and yes, we're constantly learning new ways to treat them and prevent them, but that doesn't change the fact that they suck. We've also heard many horror stories. Sadly, there are cases where dancers injure themselves so badly it ends their dancing careers.
As students aspiring to become professionals, that is our biggest fear.
I remember my first injury very vividly. I am lucky to say that so far, in 16 years of dancing, I've only had one major injury *knock on wood*. It happened around late October, early November of my freshman year. Guest artists had come to our school to set a piece on the dance ensemble and held auditions for all the majors. Auditions are always nerve-racking and exhausting, but at least once they're over we get to take our minds off of them since cast lists don't come out until a few days later. This time was different. Not only did we find out who got cast immediately, but rehearsals started right after as well. I got cast, and though I felt worn out, I was over the moon to have been given this opportunity.
So we begin rehearsing, but that doesn't last very long for me. As we are going over a phrase, I jump. The jump is great, the coming down not so much. As soon as my left foot touches the floor I hear a blaring POP. I stumble, and take a few steps having lost my balance. My friend turns around shocked, asks me if I'm okay. I nervously nod. I'm fine, I tell her. I'm fine. So I continue dancing. Turn here, hop, step, jump. It doesn't take me long to realize that I can't do any of that, it's too painful. I try to walk it off, that usually works. It doesn't. I can't put weight on it and it hurts. I go get ice and unwillingly sit out of rehearsal.
I try not to panic. I'll be fine tomorrow, I lie to myself. In the mean time my foot is swelling up. I try to take my mind off of it, focus on watching rehearsal. As soon as the other dancers get a break, they come check up on me. "That doesn't look good," someone says. "That's how my sister broke her foot," says another one. I try not to listen. That wouldn't happen to me. Then my professor makes me fill out and injury form. And it hits me. Panic.
A million thoughts flood my brain. What have I done? They'll pull me out of this piece. I'm only a freshmen, what will the professors think of me? What if I can never do pointe again? How long will it take to heal? What if it doesn't fully heal? My heart is pounding, and my face is red. I get to my room and call my parents. As I explain what happened, I burst out crying. It's not the pain I'm crying about, it's what that pain might signify. They manage to come me down, and I try to stay positive.
To make a long story short, it turned out I had bruised a bone in my foot. I sat out of class a couple of times, but then kept dancing, taking it easy on whatever hurt. I couldn't do pointe for a few weeks and it took about two-month to fully recover. I wasn't able to get it checked out until is was basically healed.
Not getting medical help is very common with dancers. After the initial shock/panic of the injury we start working tirelessly towards recovery. Not being able to dance or move is unacceptable to us, so we try and get back on our feet as soon as possible, though we have to be careful to not re-injure ourselves again. There is also the fear of losing our strength, endurance and fitness. Another issue we often face, is that we don't like to seek medical attention. A lot of doctors don't really know what we do and will tell us to stop dancing for a certain amount of time. That's like telling us not to breathe; it's just not possible. Also, we are used to physical fatigue and pain, so we might have a high tolerance for pain, meaning that we might not feel things as intensively as other people. Going to get an injury checked out might mean we have something that is a lot more severe than we expect.
Despite the fact that injuries suck, they are also a learning experience. They teach us how to take care of our bodies, how to work it, and how to train it. Our goal is to dance for as long as possible, so if a minor injury can teach us how, it was worth it.