Physical therapists (PTs) can be particularly effective at helping dancers recover from injury thanks to the unique matrix of evaluation, intervention, and communication skills they bring to their approaches, according to a recent study in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science.
The study, conducted by Megin Sabo, PT, DPT, LMT, OCS, describes the challenge of treating an injured dancer, whose rehearsal and training time is extensive, and who typically wants to return to full function as soon as possible with a minimum of missed practice. Treatment that fails to recognize these elements will tend to be less successful than approaches that are based in an understanding of the dancer's world, a willingness to incorporate modified dance techniques to encourage adherence to "relative rest," and sensitivity to the importance of communicating in ways relevant to the performer.
Sabo's qualitative study incorporated interviews from PTs who had provided care to dancers and dancers who had received rehabilitation after a dance-related injury. Dancers were asked to recount their experiences and share the positives and negatives of their rehabilitation, while the PTs were surveyed on the range of approaches used.
The results showed a high level of agreement among PTs and dancers that the most successful interventions involved in-depth reviews of technique—not just to correct potentially damaging habits but to identify ways for the dancer to incorporate periods of relative rest while minimizing missed rehearsal. Equally important, according to the study, is the PT's ability to understand dance vocabulary and to communicate with dancers in ways that demonstrate this understanding.
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