WARE — Dance is a great outlet for creativity and physical exercise that can also build character and self-confidence, said Dr. Aiena Laya Bautista, doctor of Physical Therapy at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital. “Extremely popular among youth of many ages, there are many different types of dance classes to choose from, including modern dance, ballet, tap, jazz, and acrobatics.”
However, she added, “as with any sport or exercise routine, dance can lead to overuse injuries.”
Bautista, who has been specially trained in the physical needs of the young dancer, now offers Enhance Your Dance, a program for young athletes that specializes in treatment of young and adolescent dancers. The program is a collaboration between the BMLH Rehabilitation Department and Baystate Medical Practices – Quabbin Pediatrics, which evaluates and prescribes the correct type, frequency, and duration of exercises that will get the young dancer pain-free and back to dancing.
“Young dancers are not just artists but athletes as well,” she said. “Many youth begin dance class at a very early age and quickly learn the discipline and physical demands of dancing.” Bautista, a dancer herself, danced from grade school through her college years.
“The physical demands that are placed on young dancers through the repetition of practicing movements over and over often require extreme flexibility, strength, and endurance,” she said. “For teens, physiological changes that accompany rapid growth can lead to a youth being more susceptible to an injury. During a growth spurt, muscles and bones grow longer much faster than they grow stronger, which can lead to imbalances. Dancers can also lose core strength and coordination as their center of gravity changes from growing, which can further increase the likelihood of injury.”
Because dance requires artistic expression and athletic performance, she continued, “we work together with the dancer, family, and dance teacher to help keep dancers healthy. It’s important that intervention and injury prevention be made available to dancers so they can address balance, strength, and functional body control deficits as they grow. The confidence gained through achievements in dance help to build social skills and increase self-esteem, while having fun and exercising. I encourage children to keep dancing and exercising.”
For more information about the Enhance Your Dance Program at the Baystate Rehabilitation Department at Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, call (413) 967-2180.