Updated: Feb 12
In this four-part blog series, we’ve talked about some common Irish dance injuries and how your core and hip stability plays a critical role in preventing them. In the last part in this series, we’re going to cover one more area in the body key to injury prevention:
the foot and ankle!
Because the foot is what actually bears the weight of your body while you dance, it acts as the interface between your body and the floor. This means it has to both distribute your weight evenly while also acting as a shock absorber and distribute the forces from landing. In order to play both of these roles, the foot and ankle needs to be both stable enough to the structural base for your entire body while also being mobile enough to respond to changing positions and forces.
Nancy and Allegra Romita from the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Education Committee explain that stabilization of the ankle and foot is crucial for injury prevention as 65% of dance injuries are related to improper alignment of the foot and ankle developed out of poor habits. They write that “unconscious habits in standing, sitting, or how you hold your feet while driving a car can either support the stability needed for the rigors in dance training or it can insidiously compromise it.” So it stands to reason that re-training your neuromuscular system on proper alignment of these joints (like visualizing tripod stance) will help develop a strong foundation and reduce the risk of injuries.
Photo retrieved from https://tonygentilcore.com/2015/02/passive-vs-active-foot-squatting-performance/
Using this tripod stance–distributing your weight evenly between the ball of your foot, base of your smallest toe, and heel–is great in everyday life, but becomes even more important when doing things like balance exercises. Balance exercises are key to enhancing proprioception, or our body’s ability to know where it is in space, and can reduce the prevalence of ankle sprains significantly. While doing balance exercises, maintaining good alignment through your foot and ankle with a tripod stance also helps the body learn what this alignment should feel like.
Mobility in the foot and ankle is important to prevent injuries. The 26 bones that make up the feet are designed to move to help absorb shock. However, when we utilize our feet improperly (as is common in Irish dance when underutilizing our feet muscles to point or wearing too-small shoes) all of these joints can get stiff and immobile. If these joints cannot move like they should, your foot cannot disperse the forces from dancing up your leg and instead gets stuck with the full shock of your landings, which can cause serious injuries like stress fractures.
In these blogs, we’ve talked about the importance of stability and strength in three main areas to help prevent injuries: the core, the hips, and the feet. Dance is an incredibly dynamic sport that requires our body to be able to adapt to new and changing conditions in order to keep us safe from injuries.
Now that we know the importance of these areas in reducing our risk of injury, it's time to start training. We've got a NEW RELEASE coming this weekend on the Target Training Online Institute dedicated to injury prevention! This video will take you through a series of exercises targeted to your core, hips, and feet to help you build stability and strength to prevent common Irish dance injuries. Click HERE to head to the Online Institute and try out some of our other videos now!
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Ellen Waller & Ella Pomplun
Romita, N. and Romita, A. (2019). Stability the foot and ankle: the impacts of daily habits on dance training. International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, retrieved from https://iadms.org/resources/blog/posts/2019/may/stability-of-the-foot-and-ankle-the-impact-of-daily-habits-on-dance-training/