THE HIPS and it's role in injury prevention In part 2 of our Injuries in Irish dance blog series, we discussed the role that the core muscles–namely the abdominals (abs)–play in preventing Irish dance injuries. However, your core includes much more than just your abs. The core also includes all of the muscles around your hips that act to stabilize the hip joint and play a major role in reducing the risk of lower leg injuries.
There are three main groups of muscles within the hip we’ll focus on that are key to a dancer's stability while dancing: your deep lateral rotators, your hip abductors, and your glutes. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three areas and how they affect stability.
DEEP LATERAL ROTATORS The deep lateral rotators are a group of 6 small muscles that sit deep in your hips and act to turn out (laterally rotate) your leg–thus the name deep lateral rotators! Because turnout is key to the “look” of Irish dance, strength in these muscles is essential. Without strength in these muscles, your body will not be able to turn out your entire leg from the hip as it should for healthy, biomechanically correct turnout. Instead, it will find somewhere else to try to force the desired level of turnout from, typically the knee. Turning out at the knee places high levels of stress on the ligaments on the inside of your knee, especially when you bear weight or land jumps, and can lead to serious injuries in this area. Furthermore, turning out from the knee forces the arch of your foot into a collapsed position, where the majority of your weight falls on the inside of your foot. This improper alignment can lead to shin splints, sesamoiditis, ankle sprains, or worse. Thus, strong deep lateral rotators are essential to ensure you turn out from your hip and maintain ideal alignment to avoid these injuries.
ABDUCTORS The hip abductors are the group of muscles responsible for abducting your hip–lifting your leg out to the side, away from the midline of your body–and are found on the very outside edge of your hips. One of these muscles in particular, the gluteus medius (glute med for short), is an essential player when it comes to preventing injuries. If you’ve ever been in a TT class, you’ve probably heard us obsess over keeping your knees directly over your toes, especially when we do squats. The glute med is one of the main muscles responsible for this alignment! Next time you’re in front of a mirror, try a squat. If your knees fall in towards each other, use the outside of your hips (where your glute med lives!) to correct this. Glute med weakness–and by extension, misalignment of your knees and ankles–is a huge source of the injuries for Irish dancers.. A strong glute med is essential to keep your entire leg in proper alignment and prevent everything from shin splints (from repeated landings with improper alignment) to hip pain (landing without glute med strength to stabilize your hip and leg).
Image retrieved from https://www.builtlean.com/glute-activation-exercises/
GLUTES If you’ve ever been in a TT class–or even taken a glance at our Instagram–you’ve probably noticed that we are obsessed with the glutes, also known as the muscles that make up your bum. The glute med is a part of this group, but it also includes the gluteus maximus and the gluteus minimus. These three muscles work together to provide constant stability to your legs during dancing and training. When the glutes are strong and stable, along with your abdominals and hips, the glutes assist in stabilizing the pelvis. Weak glutes will cause a breakdown in the stabilization of the core, and lead to injuries either in the hips or further down the chain to the lower leg and feet.
Core - check!
Hips - check!
Feet and ankles - check out part 4 for all the details!
Ellen Waller & Ella Pomplun