THE CORE and it's role in injury prevention In part 1 of our four part blog series on Irish dance injuries, we reviewed a list of some of the most common overuse injuries we see in Irish dance with a brief description of each. If you didn't get a chance to read it yet, check it out at the link below.
Now let’s start diving deeper into how we can reduce our risk of these injuries by understanding the impact different muscle groups have on controlling and stabilizing areas of our body. When we talk about stability, one of the most important muscle groups is your core. As athletes, we hear a lot about the core–that we should be strengthening it, engaging it, etc–but what muscles make up the ‘core?’ And why are these muscles so important to reducing our risk of injury? Clara Fischer Gam from the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Education Committee explains that a, “lack of core control seems to increase strain on the surrounding joints, bones and ligaments and has been related to injury risk on lower extremities and the lower back. As we know that dancers quite often acquire injuries on these parts of the body, bringing core control activities into studio practice could also play a key role on injury prevention and in turn enhance movement efficiency.”
Image retrieved from https://vitruve.fit/blog/3-types-of-core-training-for-athletes-to-improve-strength/ The first thing that may come to mind when you hear “core” might be your abdominals–and while these muscles are an important part of your core, they’re not the whole story. The most well-known abdominals are the rectus abdominis (the ‘six-pack’ muscle) and the obliques (on the outside of your torso), but a deeper muscle, the transverse abdominis, plays a major role in core and spine stability. We tend to rely on the more superficial muscles, the rectus abdominis and obliques, more than we should, as they are easier to contract than the deeper transverse abdominis (1).
In addition to your abdominals, the core also includes deep back muscles. This group of muscles, known as paraspinals, run the length of your back along your spine in order to stabilize it. They support your back and you use them every time you bend, twist, or arch your back. Another major muscle group that makes up the core is the glutes. The glutes provide support and stability to your legs, pelvis and trunk. We’ll talk more about the glutes in part 3 of the blog series.
When you think about your core, think of all those stabilizing muscles from your shoulders to your hips. “These diverse muscles act together to maintain control of positioning and movement of the trunk over the upper and lower extremities: and that’s especially relevant when it comes to dance,” says the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. Because control of these muscles is so important to maintaining proper alignment, a lack of core strength and control increases strain on the surrounding bones and ligaments and has been related to an increased risk of injury in the legs and low back. It’s important to note that core stability is a dynamic concept. When you dance, your amount of motion is constantly changing; for example, a leap requires much more motion than a treble, so they require different levels of stability from your core. This means that there is not one single core muscle that provides the stability needed when you dance–when utilized properly, all of the muscles of the core work together to provide the dynamic stability we need to keep our bodies safe when we dance!
Check out more from our Injuries in Irish Dance blog series below!
Ellen Waller & Ella Pomplun