Convinced you may get hurt landing on that hard dance floor? According to a May 28, Journal of Science and Medicine study, dancers are more likely to sustain an injury on a floor that has varying amounts of shock absorption, as opposed to its overall give.
Researchers led by Luke S. Hopper from Australia’s University of Notre Dame, compared floor properties at three theatres regularly used by a touring professional ballet dance company. Test points were quantified per European Sports Surface Standard protocols for force reduction, which measures the degree by which a floor reduces the impact force or shock absorption that occurs when an athlete or dancer lands on it. Injuries to the lower limbs or lumbar region sustained by ballet company dancers during performance and rehearsal activity on the tested floors were recorded by the company’s medical staff.
While the researchers found floor construction and mechanical properties to vary between venues, they also found none of the floors compliant with the European Standard (EN). They also observed a higher dance injury rate was sustained on floors with the greatest variability in floor force reduction rather than if the floor was too hard or too soft overall.
In an earlier 2011 study led by Hopper, researchers investigated dancer perceptions of floor surface properties to determine if they were in alignment with the quantifying measures and recommendations. While student and professional dancer perceptions were not significantly different, opinions on vertical deformation or the ‘give’ quality of the tested floors received fluctuating responses. In fact dancers demonstrated a preference for floors with greater force reduction magnitudes than specified by European sport surface standards.
Part of the challenge has been that until very recently no standards existed which relate specifically to dance floors. In addition EN, a floor used for dance activity could have been constructed per International Basketball Federation (FIBA) standards, German Institute for Standardization (DIN), or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), just to name a few. In an effort to better meet the interests of dancers and related stage performers, the Entertainment Services Technical Association (ESTA) recently approved the American National Standard E1.26-2006 approved Jan. 13, 2012. In addition establishing ranges for shock absorption and vertical deformation, additional sections addressing degrees of ‘Area Deflection’ (how much one athlete or dancer standing on a floor is disturbed by the movements of another), as well as ratios for proper surface friction and methods to identify potential structural concerns are included.
Professional dancers can be required to perform on floors that may be inadequate for safe dance practice. While there has been some progress in establishing standards more specific to the needs of a dancer, as this recent study indicates a corresponding reduction in dancer injuries will not be achieved if protocols are not followed. While dancer perception and floor surface preference can vary, this study suggests fluctuations within individual surfaces may present the greater injury risk to the professional dancer and student.
Dance floor mechanical properties and dancer injuries in a touring professional ballet company Published online 28 May 2013; Luke S. Hopper, Nick Allen, Matthew Wyon, Jacqueline A. Alderson, Bruce C. Elliott, Timothy R. Ackland; School of Health Sciences, University of Notre Dame Australia; School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, University of Western Australia; Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries, UK; National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science, UK; School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, University of Wolverhampton, UK.
Dancer perceptions of quantified dance surface mechanical properties; L S Hopper; J A Alderson; B C Elliott2; T R Ackland2; P R Fleming3.; Accepted January 19, 2011.School of Health Sciences, The University of Notre Dame Australia, PO Box 1225, Fremantle, WA6959, Australia.
Harlequin, Specifying Dance Floors: A guide for Architects; American Harlequin Corporation Glen Avenue, Moorestown, NJ 08057, Tel: +1 (1) 856 234 5505; Email