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Pilates for Young Ballet Dancers

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The preteen or adolescent female ballet dancer who participates in rigorous physical training may be predisposed to unique but predictable injuries and dysfunctional performance patterns. A particularly vulnerable stage is during the time of the "adolescent growth spurt" when young dancers may temporarily become weaker and less flexible and may not be able to balance as well or to lift their legs as high during this stage.

Healthy musculoskeletal development specific to the young ballet dancer ideally occurs between the ages of 11 to 14 years old. Common patterns of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction are typically reported at the hip, low back, ankle and knee.

Feelings of awkwardness during this transitional period may contribute to low self-esteem. Fluctuating hormonal changes can also exacerbate poor self-image and confidence in abilities. Without adaptations in dance training, didactic health-education and emotional support to accommodate for this predictable but time-limited phase, girls can make poor health choices that have life-long consequences.

In her article "Pilates and the Young Ballet Dancer," Susan King, PT, CBT, senior outpatient physical therapist at East Cooper Medical Center in Mt. Pleasant, SC, presents common injury patterns and performance dysfunctions of female dancers seen in her clinic as well as easy-to-implement and inexpensive applications of Pilates training apparatus and props.

Among the exercises presented in this slideshow:
• Pilates Ring exercises for activation of obliques and transverse abdominals
• Gross flexion and extension pattern strengthening standing on Pilates rotation discs and using Pilates ring
• Core strength training with resisted forward leap using Pilates Trapeze
• Dynamic myofascial release using cupping device

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