Irish dancing is a great form of healthy exercise for everyone and can be enjoyed by young and old.
Just as in sport, dancers need to know how to protect themselves from injury. Competition dancing requires a short intense period of dance but many hours of training, whereas set dancing involves longer periods of continuous moderate activity. The body of the dancer needs to be trained to undertake this safely.
Competitive Irish Dancers do not have movement of the arms – but set dancing does include arm movements.
Significant strength is required in the calf, hip and core muscles for the jumping + hopping used in some steps.
Training for competitive dance can involve many hours of daily practice so a good base fitness and endurance are necessary.
Core stability, strength and balance help to maintain good posture during performances, especially when standing on one leg and transitioning between steps.
Good technique needs good muscle control, core stability, balance and co-ordination - all of which will help to minimise injury to the feet and knees.
Common injuries in Irish Dancing are associated with overloading of the tissues during training and performance.
These include ligament and joint sprain in the foot, calf muscle strains and bone stress (fractures) injuries of the feet, shin and knees.
There is particular risk of overloading in actively growing children especially in the lead up to competitions when daily practice increases dramatically.
Certain steps (Rock Step, on toe and jumps) carry a high risk of injury. Poor step technique increases the risk of injury. Stamping the floor with the foot may cause impact injuries in older dancers.
Don’t ignore pain and discomfort during or after dancing - seek early advice from your Doctor or from Ennis Physiotherapy Clinic so that you can get back to being
‘Get Fit to Dance’
Irish musicians should consider themselves as being like highly trained sportspeople.
They participate in intermittent prolonged bouts of intense precision activity, requiring a lot of concentration.
They are likely to suffer injury from time to time related to playing their instruments. They can minimise their risk of injury.
Keep the head + neck in good alignment with the rest of the body and not bent or twisted to one side. Sit directly facing others in the group where needed, The weight of an instrument should be supported rather than being held continuously by the arms. Keep the shoulders relaxed and keep the elbows as close to the sides if possible. Keep the wrist in a neutral position when viewed from above or the side. Wear loose clothing to allow movement of limbs + body. Grip the instrument ‘lightly’ and only press as much as is needed to play notes. Take adequate rests between tunes.
Take care when manually handling, moving or carrying heavy / bulky instrument + cases. Bend with the back straight and use the legs to do the lifting.
Prevention is better than the cure.
‘Get Fit to Play’
The causes of injury include poor playing posture (static + dynamic), poor seating, poor technique (grip, forces being used, angle of hands/wrists), repetitive movements and prolonged play without rest, personal stress level (tension) and risks carried over from their normal home + workplace - like working with computers.
Ideal posture would have the musician sitting comfortably on a seat at around knee height, with a backrest that does not limit movement of the shoulders – a narrow backed chair is ideal. The body should be held upright, tall and straight, with the weight equally balanced between left and right side.
Irish dancing needs a combination of flexibility, strength + endurance, core stability and balance.
Significant flexibility for the trunk and the lower limbs is needed for some steps – high kicks and the ‘rocks’ and ‘on toe’ step.
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