Monday, June 30, 2014

Concussions in Dance

           The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe. - Michio Kaku

           Concussions have become a topic of concern among the athletic community, but very little information is available about concussions in the dance community. Although the risk of concussion in dance is not as high as it is in others sports like football, basketball, and soccer, it still exists.
            A recent article published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science documented concussions that occurred in dancers over a 5 ½ year period. These injuries occurred in classes, rehearsals, and performances and seemed to be common among all types of dance. The documented cases included dancers who studied ballet, modern, acro, hip-hop, and musical theater dance.

            In most instances concussions are caused by a bump or a blow to the head. Almost all of the dancers reported hitting their heads while doing stunts, diving, flipping, or accidentally falling. It is interesting to note, however, that one dancer reported developing concussion symptoms after “repeatedly whipping her head and neck in a choreographed movement.”

            Although there is little information readily available that discusses concussions in dance, it is important for dancers, dance educators, and dance parents to know that they do occur and how to recognize the signs and symptoms.

            Fewer than 10% of people who sustain a concussion lose consciousness, and the symptoms may not show up right away. For some the symptoms may appear immediately, but for others it may take hours or days.

            Some symptoms that a concussed dancer may have:
·      Headache
·      Nausea or vomiting
·      Blurred vision
·      Light sensitivity
·      Noise sensitivity
·      Feeling mentally foggy
·      Concentration or memory problems

Listed below are the signs a teacher or parent should look for if a concussion is suspected:
·      Appears dazed
·      Cannot remember what happened before or after the injury
·      Seems confused
·      Forgets instructions
·      Moves clumsily
·      Answers questions slowly
·      Changes in personality or behavior

            If a concussion is suspected, the dancer should stop dancing immediately and be seen by a health care professional, who can evaluate the injury and determine when he or she can return to dance class. Returning to class too soon can result in a second concussion that can result in long-term problems like brain damage.

            My next post will discuss what happens in our bodies during a concussion and the treatment for those suffering from concussions.

            I would love to hear from you in the comments below if you or a dancer you know has sustained a concussion while dancing – is it more of a problem than we realize?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Celebrating Tap Dance….

           "When you dance to your own rhythm, life taps its toes to your beat." - Terri Guillemets 

         In 1989, George H.W. Bush declared May 25 National Tap Dance Day. This particular day was chosen to honor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson since it was his birthday, and he was influential in advancing this dance form.

            In the United States, nationwide celebrations take place on May 25, celebrating tap dance. Like all forms of dance, tap dance is beneficial on many levels. It improves cardio-respiratory fitness levels, creates and reinforces neural pathways so that messages are carried efficiently and quickly between the muscles and the brain, and it increases muscular strength and flexibility.

            Additionally, tap provides other specific benefits. Tap requires dancers to shift their weight continuously from one foot to the other, improving balance and reactionary skills. The fact that tap is a high impact, weight-bearing dance form also means that it puts additional stress on bones, which encourages bone growth and helps provide insurance against osteoporosis.
            Moreover, since tap is rhythmic in nature, it stimulates parts of the brain also stimulated by music. Studies have shown that rhythm stimulates an area of the frontal brain lobe called the inferior frontal gyrus. This area of the brain is called upon each time a tap dancer needs to learn or reproduce a rhythmic phrase and becomes very well-developed. The inferior frontal gyrus is the same area of the brain that is called upon when a person needs to understand spoken language. Those who are exposed to rhythm often have been found to have better phonological awareness.  This awareness is the ability to divide words into syllables and detect different sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words.

            So on May 25, we celebrate National Tap Dance Day and remember once again how dance can make a difference.  In addition to being fun to do and exciting to watch, tap dance helps develop different areas of the brain, can increase literacy levels, and makes us healthier individuals.