What Dancers Need to Know About Concussions
Dancing is a dangerous physical activity that can result in devastating injuries. Whether a dancer’s partner accidentally drops them during a lift or two dancers collide heads during rehearsal, serious concussions can occur, even if the injured party didn't lose consciousness. Any direct blow to the head that is the result or rotary force that causes the brain to move or strike the skull can cause a concussion.
While many dancers want to get up and try again after a collision, physical therapist and athletic trainer Carrie Gaerte, warns that they shouldn’t. Gaerte, who works with Butler University in Indianapolis and at Ascension St. Vincent Sports Performance, says, “What's really hard for dancers is admitting that maybe something isn't right. But the big thing about concussions is that your brain is not like your ankle, shoulder, or knee. When your brain has an injury, that needs to take precedence over a role or a job."
According to Gaerte, any dancer who has a serious fall, hits their head, and loses consciousness should immediately get medical attention. Gaerte also notes that dancers sometimes “run into someone and jostle their head, but they feel fine completing rehearsal. It might not be until that next day or later that they notice any symptoms.” When this occurs, she stresses that the injured dancer should consult with a sports medicine physician because a general practitioner might not be familiar with the athleticism of ballet and might not suspect a concussion.
Common Concussion Symptoms Among Dancers
If a dancer sustains any impact to the head, then they should spend about 48 to 72 hours resting. It is important to note that concussion symptoms aren’t always evident right away, which is why monitoring the injured party’s condition is crucial. Common symptoms of a concussion include headache, dizziness, blurred or double vision, balance problems, memory dysfunction, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and sensitivity to light.
According to Gaerte, collegiate and high-school level dancers might notice the impact of concussions in their academic classes. "Sometimes they'll say that they can't pay attention, they feel very tired, their homework takes longer to do, or they have difficulty studying or taking notes," says Gaerte.
Treatment & Returning to Dance
Although there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for concussions, ImPACT testing has become a popular method in the sports world. With ImPACT testing, athletes take a series of computer tests that evaluate neurocognitive function at the beginning of a season to establish a baseline. If a concussion is suspected, the athlete can retake the tests to identify where their deficits are and, how they improve over time.
After the rehabilitation process, Gaerte stresses the importance of dancers making a gradual return to the studio. "Like any other injury, you don't want to jump back in all at once. It might look like just barre for a week or two," says Gaerte.
Scarlett Law Group is here to assist with your legal needs if you or a loved one have suffered a concussion or traumatic brain injury. Give us a call today at (415) 688-2176 to request a free case consultation.