Isolation has provided many challenges to our daily lives, one of which is the limitation of children’s sporting activities. Some parents will have children climbing the walls eager to keep active, while others are fighting the power of the PS4.

Regardless of activity levels, the difficulty in replicating competition loads is challenging. The constraints are obvious with limitations from our current environment, and the lack of drive provided by our teammates, coaches and nature of competition.

The term “training load” entered the public’s terminology following a series of overload injuries to cricket Australia’s fast bowlers. In one excellent study1, an evidence-based review was performed identifying the close relationship between fluctuations in training loads (namely sudden increases)and risk of injury. More specifically when a spike in training load occurs, the risk of injury increases. As an example, for many of us our current activity loads are less than they otherwise would have been at the mid season phase of competitions. With a sudden softening of COVID restrictions, and an expected rush back to high intensity training and competitive sporting events, this clearly risks a sudden spike or increase in loads. Clearly, risk of injury may be high!

Dancers, like most sports, share the same limitations on ability to train from home at the required intensity level. Whilst online classes certainly provide a great medium in the circumstances, they do not replicate the physical and mental intensity required for competitive performances. Another reputable study2 investigated the evidence looking at injury risk for ballet dancers transitioning into professional dance from amateur level. For the ballet population, fitness is gained from a full season of competition rather than just in rehearsals. This study noted that physical deconditioning can be a real issue following holiday periods, resulting in an increased incidence of injury 2-3 months into the year. What is really interesting about this is not just the knowledge on how important maintaining conditioning is, but the fact that injuries as a result of deconditioning often occur weeks to months after our return – so we don’t correlate the injury with the deconditioning period, but it often can be related!

These findings identify exactly the challenge that faces not only dancers but all sports at the moment. Decreased activity can lead to deconditioning, which in turn may result in greater injury risk during the first few months returning to competitive sport. Reduced activity may be simply as a result of jogging rather than sprinting; or a reduction in core stability from long periods of sitting; or not being as intense in your online class because the eagle eye of your dance teacher has been compromised!

During normal training times, it is a major aim of coaches and fitness staff to ensure sport specific activity is performed at a level that is close to what is performed during competition, and to try and practice at this level consistently. We know that if this level of training can be sustained over time, injury risk will be minimised AND performance levels be enhanced!

A quote from one of the greatest athletes the world has seen sums it up nicely:

Love this quote from Michael Jordan can apply it to any sport and ...

Anthony Selby
APA Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist

*1Drew, M., & Finch, C. (2016). The relationship between training load and injury, illness and soreness: a systematic and literature review. Sports Medicine, 46(6), 861-883. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0459-8

*2Fuller, M., Moyle, G. M., Hunt, A. P., & Minett, G. M. (2020). Injuries during transition periods across the year in pre-professional and professional ballet and contemporary dancers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physical Therapy in Sport, 44, 14-23. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2020.03.010