Ballet research to optimise performance

La Trobe University and The Australian Ballet have joined forces to examine the athletic capacity of our leading ballet dancers – helping inform prevention and rehabilitation techniques for musculoskeletal injuries.

A newly formed alliance will see the University’s world-class human movement and sport scientists partner with the Australian Ballet’s internationally respected injury prevention and rehabilitation team to undertake  cutting-edge research.

La Trobe’s international musculoskeletal health expert, Professor Jill Cook said the research will not only provide insight on injury prevention and recovery to help dancers stay fighting fit, but may assist the public experiencing similar ailments.

The Australian Ballet’s medical team is a world leader in injury prevention as well as injury management and rehabilitation, as demonstrated by the company’s extraordinarily low  rate of injury,”  Professor Cook said.

“The initial research program will focus on identifying the  health of ligaments and tendons in the ankles and hips of ballet dancers, using MRI imaging and new ultrasound technology to find ways to decrease the high prevalence of hip and ankle injuries in the community.”

The Australian Ballet’s Principal Physiotherapist and Medical Team Manager, Sue Mayes, will be collaborating with Professor Cook. A La Trobe University graduate, she has more than 20 years’ experience treating elite dancers at The Australian Ballet and from around the world.

“Compared to the rest of the world, The Australian Ballet has an extraordinarily low rate of injury, resulting in no hip surgeries in the company  for a decade,” she said.

“By combining our expertise in sports medicine treatments with La Trobe’s excellence in research, we aim to further shape the way our country’s dancers are conditioned to perform  and recover.”

The Australian Ballet’s Executive Director Libby Christie said new evidence-based practices developed under the  partnership will improve  the technique and endurance  of dancers.

“We are about to embark on an exciting collaboration which will optimise dancer performance and recovery, and help us gain new insights into the prevention of dance related-injuries,” Ms Christie said.

“Together we will become leaders in the science of dance fitness, and share the outcomes of the research for the benefit of the dance community, and even sporting communities worldwide.”

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the University’s human movement and sports science research team has been rated as world-class in three successive Excellence in Research Australia surveys undertaken since 2010.

“This new partnership is a reflection of the two organisations’ shared values of excellence, community inclusion and global leadership,” Professor Dewar said.

“It aligns the expertise of Australia’s national ballet company with La Trobe’s world class research and our commitment  to sport, exercise and rehabilitation.

“Students at La Trobe will now have exclusive access to working with The Australian Ballet’s sports medicine research programs, providing  industry experiences that are second to  none.”

The two-year partnership aims to see the establishment of a new world-class dance health research centre, which will help not only current and aspiring dancers, but future generations of athletes.

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