Our partnership brings together La Trobe University’s world-class sports science researchers with The Australian Ballet’s internationally respected injury prevention and rehabilitation team to optimise dancer performance and health.
Dancers of The Australian Ballet are high performance athletes. They repeatedly put their bodies under great stresses, which means that their musculoskeletal tissues are vulnerable to overload and injury.
Compared to other leading global ballet companies, The Australian Ballet has an excellent track record in the conservative management of injuries. Most injuries are successfully rehabilitated in the company. The company has been so successful that it has been over five years since a rehearsal or a performance was missed by a company dancer due to a hip problem, and over ten years since a dancer had hip surgery due to injury.
Successfully managed ballet training programs and injury rehabilitation can also translate to better outcomes in other elite sports. The aim of the research is to understand the causes behind injury and if possible prevent those injuries in the future.
We propose that the findings from our research in musculoskeletal injuries could be applied to a range of sporting areas, professions, research fields and the wider public, including:
- dancers (beginner to elite)
- sports (including cricket, tennis, netball, football, soccer and swimming)
- general public
- surgeons, clinicians, radiologists, and physiotherapists
- sufferers of osteoarthritis.
Dance within Australia is very popular with more than 420,000 children under 15 participating in dance classes each week – second only to swimming, and more than in football, rugby or cricket (Australian Bureau of Statistics). With numbers like that it is clear that more in-depth research into the physical impacts of dance and injury prevention strategies could have huge benefits for young people in Australia.
Current research projects
The first two years of the La Trobe University and The Australian Ballet research partnership will focus on four priority research projects. These projects centre on injury prevention and recovery of elite ballet performers, more specifically the health of ligaments, tendons and muscles in the ankles and hips. Ankles and hips play a critical role, as they bear the greatest impact of high intensity activity.
Our current research projects are:
- Ankle mechanics: examining joint mechanics and role of the bones when dancers are on their toes.
- Hip health: determining if hip joint health changes in elite ballet dancers over time.
- Hip hypermobility: investigating the relationship between flexibility, hip joint health, hip muscle size and hip pain in professional ballet dancers.
- Hip muscle size: comparing the size of hip muscles in dancers and athletes, and investigating if hip muscle size is linked to pain and hip joint health.