17 Oct 2018

NASA technology to protect its ballerinas from injury

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The Royal Ballet is adapting NASA technology to protect its ballerinas from injury, with overworked dancers now able to soothe their tired limbs by wearing bandages developed using space suit technology. The leg wraps, made by the sports equipment company Game Ready, deliver tissue repairing therapy with cold compressions and are part of the company’s desire to protect its dancers by employing latest developments in sports science.

The intense pressure faced by dancers in their punishing schedules and routines to make their challenging movements appear effortless leads to an injury rate on par with American footballers. Male dancers suffer shoulder, knee and Achilles injuries from lifts, while 60-70% of female injuries are from below the knee, often from performing the technically demanding pirouettes (turns) and plies (bends) on their pointe shoes.

Alan Nevies and associates at northlondon osteopaths have the following to say to the dancers, managers and audiences involved in this marvellous art form:

“We get a lot of patients coming into the clinic presenting with pain caused by gymnastics, dance and ballet.

The positions and poses that are required by these activities put a lot of strain throughout the body. The reason for this is that the people who participate in these activities often carry the weight and strain of their body in one or two joints while performing certain moves.

For example a gymnast who does running and twisting in the air will propel themselves off the ground using their lower extremities and land on the extended wrists and elbows which will strain the joints. Conversely when landing in the final position all the forces that have been generated during the move will be directed into the shins and feet when they finally come to a stop. The gymnasts are looking for clean form and a concentration of forces so that they end in a precise and accurate manner. When watching Olympics you will see the gymnasts that get the best score are ones that do not sway on their landing.

Ballet dancers will have their feet in a sustained position of plantar flexion and flexion of their toes to properly perform a pirouette. This constant pressure almost inevitably leads to pain and mechanical problems in the affected joint.

For any aspiring gymnast, dancer, ballet dancer Alan Nevies and his colleagues at north London osteopaths recommend regular stretching after dancing session, possibly reinforcement of certain joints if necessary and a muscle strengthening program specific to their chosen sport that will ensure the health and integrity of the joints most at risk.

Enjoy the performance!