People often express concern about ballet dancers and their hips, especially as they age. Many dancers complain about hip problems, begging the question is ballet really bad for your hips?
Ballet can be hard on your hips. However, taking good care of your hips can make a huge difference and help to decrease or even avoid problems altogether.
Many factors go into a ballet dancer’s hip health. Physical therapy, warming up, and taking care of injuries are just some of the contributing factors that can help keep your hips feeling good.
Is Ballet Bad For Your Hips?
Ballet is not particularly bad for your hips. However, the turnout and different motions required in ballet can be incredibly taxing on your hips. It is important to understand what makes ballet hard on your hips in order to understand the effects of ballet on your hips.
The first factor is turnout. Studies have shown that, on average, only 60% of turnout comes from the actual rotation in the hip socket. Turnout is being achieved by using other muscles and the rotation of other joints. This means that dancers are pushing the limits on their hips.
Another factor is simply overused. Ballet uses the hips and hip flexors repetitively throughout classes, rehearsals, and performances. This results in overuse and sometimes injury. It is important to keep an eye on this in order to prevent these types of injuries if possible.
External rotation, from turnout, combined with overuse can be a recipe for hip pain and/or injury. Ballet rotates the hips to and past their limits and then uses them in that space repetitively. This can be pretty hard on your hips over time, especially for those who dance professionally.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Ballet on Your Hips?
Years upon years of dancing can take a toll on a dancer’s hips. This is why many dancers get hip replacements in their retirement. Some even need the surgery before their retirement, causing them to have to take a break from dancing. This surgery is among the most common procedures that dancing can stimulate.
Hip replacement surgery isn’t in every dancer’s future. Only dancers with pre-existing abnormalities are extremely serious injuries and need any hip surgeries, especially replacements. Many times dancers are able to recover from hip surgeries and go on to dance professionally again or at least have a career in dance.
Many professional and retired dancers complain about chronic hip pain or deal with hip injuries on a regular basis. This is just a reality of dancing for many people. However, there are many ways to take care of your hips as you age and these things can help prevent injury.
There isn’t anything to fear by taking on a dance career. Hip injury is only something to be aware of so that you can take proper precautions. Taking care of your hips and recovering from any injuries will lead to a long, healthy dance career should you pursue one.
How Can You Take Care of Your Hips?
There are many things that a dancer can do to take care of their hips and help prevent injury and general wear and tear. One important thing to do is to warm up before dancing. Warming up helps prevent injury while dancing.
Another important action to take is to work with a physical therapist. This is especially important if you are dancing professionally or at a pre-professional level. Physical therapy can help you stay on top of your hips and other joints and muscles, ensuring that they are being taken care of properly.
Strength training is also paramount if you are trying to prevent hip injuries. Different styles of training such as pilates, yoga, or other similar practices can help strengthen not only the hips but also the surrounding muscles such as abdominal and leg muscles.
Keeping all of these muscles strong helps take some of the extra stress off of the hips. This can help prevent injury, especially those from overuse. For example, weak abs can lead to compensation in the lower body, putting extra pressure on the hips. This unusual pressure can lead to hip pain or injury.
Lastly, keep a careful eye on your hips and the rest of your body, especially the lower half. Unattended ankle, knee, or hamstring injuries can lead to hip injuries. Attending to any pain or unusual sensations in those areas can be key to preventing further injury at the site or in other places, such as the hips.
Hip Injuries in Dancers and the Importance of Recovery
Unfortunately, hip injuries are somewhat common in dancers. Hip replacements are also all too common in retired or near-retired dancers. Common hip injuries include snapping hip syndrome, or dancer’s hip, tendinitis from overuse, labral tears, and other injuries. Many of these result from overuse.
Hip replacements are usually only needed in dancers who have some sort of abnormality in their hips or have been seriously injured. This said, many dancers do have replacements and many go on to dance after recovering.
Recovering from any type of hip injury is an important part of protecting your hips from further damage and returning to full strength as quickly as possible. Recovery should include consultations, at the very least, with a physical therapist as well as proper rest and exercises.
Failure to recover properly from an injury early on in one’s training can result in hip issues throughout their career. This can even lead to chronic hip pain, improper technique, and compensation that could end in other injuries, such as knee injuries.
Wendy Whelan, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, suffered from a labral tear in 2012. She got a hip reconstruction surgery in 2013 and was able to fully recover and go back to dancing professionally for years after. She eventually needed a total hip replacement prompting her retirement.
Whelan’s labral tear came as a result of dancing on some other minor injuries to her foot and hamstring. This further emphasizes how important it is to take care of injuries even if they seem insignificant. They can lead to more serious injuries down the road.
Things to Remember
The most important thing to remember is that any sport or physical activity can be hard on your body, especially if you are training regularly. Ballet is no exception. Putting that much pressure on various joints and muscles is hard on them in the long run.
Ballet can be hard on your hips and injuries are not uncommon among professional dancers. Hip pain is one of the most common issues among professional and retired dancers. Physical therapy, warming up, and recovering properly from injuries are important steps to take in order to reduce hip pain and injury.
While hip replacements and other surgeries are common topics of conversation among the dance community, they are usually only needed when there is a pre-existing abnormality or a serious injury.
Fear of hip pain, injury, or replacement is not a reason to avoid dancing or any other physical activity. Ballet is another beautiful art-form and athletic endeavor. Sometimes the injury can come with the territory.
Very few dancers regret dancing even after the injury. Many have stated that they wouldn’t have given up dancing even knowing that a hip injury would end or alter their career.
Remember, ballet can be good for you and you can enjoy it no matter what. It’s a fantastic activity to take part in whether professionally or just for fun.