Online Program

Injuries among elite pre-professional ballet and contemporary dancers

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rebecca Yau, PhD, MPH, Department of Epidemiology, Injury Prevention Research Center, UNC Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Yvonne Golightly, PT, PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
David Richardson, PhD, Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Steve W. Marshall, PhD, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Injuries occur frequently in dancers.  The health effects of injuries at a young age can persist for years or appear decades later.  The purpose of this study is to describe the distribution of dance-related injuries among pre-professional ballet and contemporary dancers.


The study population consisted of dancers enrolled at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) School of Dance.  Students beginning enrollment at UNCSA in Fall 2009 or later were included.  Electronic medical records were retrospectively reviewed for six academic years for data abstraction. 


There were 1,014 dance-related injuries sustained by 467 dancers (78% female, 65% ballet dancers, and 59% in high school).  The mean (standard deviation [SD]) number of injuries per UNCSA-enrolled dancer was 2.1 (2.2).  Among UNCSA-enrolled high school females, ballet dancers had more injuries than contemporary dancers [2.2 (2.3) vs. 1.4 (1.3), p<0.01]. Most injuries were overuse injuries (67.9%).   Females sustained more overuse injuries than males (70.9% vs. 58.8%, p<0.01); ballet students sustained more overuse injuries than contemporary students (70.0% vs. 64.2%, p=0.06).  Most injuries were to the lower extremity (79.5%).


The distribution of dance-related injuries varied by gender and dance style.  Future research should identify risk factors for sustaining a dance-related injury and determine if risk factors differ by dance style.  Identifying such risk factors would help identify dancers at increased injury risk and allow for targeted intervention to reduce the long-term burden of injuries on dancers.

Learning Areas:


Learning Objectives:
Describe the patterns of injury among elite ballet and contemporary dancers attending a pre-professional dance school. List the most common injury diagnoses among elite ballet and contemporary dancers attending a pre-professional dance school.

Keyword(s): Epidemiology, Special Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an injury epidemiologist with five years of experience in numerous injury-related topics including falls among older adults, child injuries, and lower extremity injuries among military cadets. She is the first author on multiple peer-reviewed publications, and is pursuing her PhD in epidemiology with a focus on injury prevention.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.