Irish dancers regularly perform in pain: survey

Some three-out-of-four professional Irish dancers sustain injuries throughout their career and regularly perform while in pain, according to researchers from the University of Limerick (UL).

Research undertaken by Kieran O’Sullivan, lecturer in physiotherapy at UL, and Róisín Culalan, a former professional Irish dancer and PhD student, showed dancers who had more stress or anxiety in their lives were much more susceptible to injury, and years where they are touring are particularly stressful.

Irish dancing as a profession has become much more popular since Riverdance brought it to an international audience in 1994.

Mr O’Sullivan said he is hoping to develop a plan that can be followed by touring Irish dancers to ensure they decrease the chance of injury.

“Interestingly the vast majority of dancers said they would do it all again even though they suffered injuries throughout their career and had aches and pains now,” he said.

The research team found good diet, sleep, and warm-ups before performances were vital in risk avoidance.

Some 178 professional Irish dancers took part in the survey — with 137 reporting injuries. The main causes of injury were accidents, fatigue, poor flooring, and repetitive strain, however researchers believe stress and anxiety may be more prevalent than the dancers notice.

The team are now doing further research into touring professionals both during tours and outside tours in order to develop guidelines to reduce risk of injury.

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