Dance Medicine and Concussion

concussionOn October 2nd 2016, Susie Higgins presented at the one day IADMS (The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science) conference held at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver.  The main focus of this one-day conference was the injured dance student and how to keep them physically fit and mentally inspired during their recovery.  This was a joint venue between IADMS, the Healthy Dancer Canada organization and Anderson Performance clinic.

For this presentation, Susie gave a 20 minute talk on Concussion in Dance, discussing the importance of establishing a concussion management protocol in every dance school.  Even though concussions are not as common in dance as they may be in football, rugby, hockey or soccer, they do occur. It may happen through partnering work (mainly being dropped from a lift), being accidentally hit by another dancer or prop piece (see this nasty Lady Gaga mishap around 17 seconds here: through a fall or even through choreography involving lots of wild head and neck movements.

Thanks to a lot of research and education the general public is now a lot more aware of the signs and symptoms of concussions. While clear guidelines on what to do when you first suspect a concussion are readily available on line, we at Trimetrics offer this as our preferred resource:

However, what we are still searching for is a good rehabilitation program approach in dance medicine, which includes the same return to play protocols as are applied to any other athlete who has undergone a concussion. Having medical clearance to return to sport and school after a concussion very often does not translate into being ready to return to dance. This is where baseline testing can be a useful tool; where a dancer is assessed physically and neurologically each year to determine her/his baseline “normal”.

After injury a dancer can be retested, so that teachers and parents can know, objectively, where on the recovery spectrum that dancer actually is. Testing takes the guess work out of the “return to dance” decision.

Sending a dancer (or any athlete) back to train and perform if the brain is not healed sets the scene for further injury. This is because the nervous system is not fully recovered, which means balance and coordination may be off. This can lead to what is called “second impact syndrome” which at best is a new injury, and at worst, has been known to be fatal.

Dancers greatly rely on their balance, motor control and spatial awareness, as well as being able to judge the height of jumps from the floor and across the stage. Dance involves a significant amount of balance, core control, twists, multiple turns, jumps and complex choreography.  The very things that are most affected in a concussion.  Students returning to dance class cannot and should not be expected to return right away to a full class involving multiple inverted positions, multiple turns and jumps or complex choreography. The infamous dance mum (or dad), the over-ambitious teenage dance student and the pushy misinformed dance teacher might also stand in the way of the student wishing to return to dance gradually and sensibly to avoid ongoing chronic issues.

Trimetrics Dance Medicine Therapists (Registered Physiotherapists and Certified Pilates teacher Susie Higgins) work closely to develop a progressive rehabilitation program. It is individualized to each dancer using the best evidence available; what a dancer can and cannot do and when they are ready to return to a full class and performance with all risk factors for injury minimized.

Susie looks forward to co-presenting with Astrid Sherman ( in Texas at the next IADMS conference in 2017.

For further inquiries about assessment and dance training please email directly Susie: [email protected]

*The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science was formed in 1990 by an international group of dance medicine practitioners, dance educators, dance scientists and dancers. IADMS enhances the health, well being, training, and performance of dancers by cultivating educational, medical, and scientific excellence. IADMS promotes international communication between dancers and medicine