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?