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A warmup is essential as it prepares a dancer’s body for physical activity. As well as preparing muscles and joints for dance, there are also other benefits which help to ensure the safe practice of dance. An effective warmup will prepare the body and mind for the coordination and strength needed for complex, technical movements. Also, by doing a warmup the risk of injury is greatly minimised, and muscle relaxation and contraction is encouraged in the body. A successful warmup should include 3 parts, one section of pulse raisers such as star jumps and high knees to increase the body temperature by 1-2 degrees, optimal working temperature and increase blood flow around the body, therefore delivering more oxygen to the muscles. Part 2 should include exercises to mobilise the joints, such as shoulder rolls and head rolls, which will prepare the joints for physical activity and increase synovial fluid in the joints, which will increase range of motion. Part 3 should be a series of stretches of major muscle groups to prepare muscles and reduce risk of injury. Each stretch should be held for around 10-15 seconds, and you should never bounce the stretch, you should feel a gentle stretch in the muscles rather than a tear. A warmup can also include dance specific exercises to prepare your body for certain dance styles. For example, isolation exercises for contemporary. A full warmup should be around 15 minutes of continuous, rhythmic movement which gradually builds in intensity to increase blood flow and ensuring enough oxygen is being delivered to the muscles. A warmup is simply to prepare the body and mind for physical activity and reduce risk of injury, so it is important to remain in your level of ability and not push yourself too hard, as this could cause injury.

When doing physical activity, a cool down afterwards is just as essential as the warmup. A cool down will gradually decrease the heart rate and body temperature, essentially reversing the warmup process. This is important as if the activity stops abruptly, there is a risk of your blood pooling within the muscles rather than returning to the heart and brain, resulting in a lack of oxygen and causing dizziness. A successful cool down also reduces muscle soreness and speeds up the recovery process by getting rid of excess fluids and waste products, such as lactic acid, that can build up, causing stiffness and soreness. A cool down should be done straight after physical activity and begin by gradually reducing the intensity of activity, returning the muscles and joints to their resting state. The joints should then be remobilised with exercises such as shoulder and head rolls, which will encourage excess fluids and waste products to be flushed away, reducing the risk of muscles stiffness and soreness. A static stretching sequence should also be completed as part of the cool down. Due to the increased tissue temperature after physical activity, flexibility will be easier to increase and maintain. Rehydration by drinking plenty of water is also encouraged after physical activity to replace any water lost through sweat.

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In terms of injury prevention, a warmup and cool down are the first measures to take as they help reduce the risk of muscle and joint injuries. However, there are also other ways to prevent injuries in dance. One main injury prevention method is a risk assessment, which should be taken of the studio/space you are working in. A risk assessment includes observing the room for anything that could present a risk to the dancers and teachers in the room. For example, identifying bags and coats as a trip hazard and spilled drinks as a slip hazard. A strict uniform policy is also a way of preventing injury, as socks should never be worn for risk of slipping, restrictive clothing could be uncomfortable for the dancer and jewelry could cause injury if it gets caught on themselves or another dancer. Also, it is important that a dancer knows their own capacity and doesn’t push themselves to something they physically and technically don’t know how to do, as pushing past your limits can cause injury.

A risk assessment is an assessment of the studio/space you are working in to check for risks and things that could cause injury and should be taken out before the space can be used. The assessment should check for trip hazards, such as coats and bags around the room, equipment and loose wires. Slip hazards should also be identified, and spillages should be instantly dried and cleaned to prevent slipping. A risk assessment should also be taken out on the dancers, identifying risks such as jewelry, socks and physical health. Jewelry and socks would be an injury and slip risk, so a uniform policy should have rules against these. Checking a dancer’s physical health is also important as if a dancer isn’t prepared and in full health, it can cause injuries to themselves and other dancers.

The first thing you should do when you get an injury is stop the physical activity immediately and if in a place of danger, move to a safe space (if possible) to prevent further injury and observe the injured area for any swelling, bruising or bleeding. At this point, there is then a process you can follow to protect and aid the injury. This process is RICERR, encouraging you to rest, ice, compress, elevate, refer and rehabilitate. The first course of action, rest, is required to immobilse the injury to prevent further damage. No weight bearing activities should be done for at least 24 hours after the injury occurs. Next, ice should be applied which will cool the tissue and constrict blood flow, therefore restricting bleeding. In the case of muscle/joint injury, it can also reduce swelling. When icing the area, it shouldn’t be applied directly to the skin as this creates risk of ice burns. After icing the injury, the next stage of the process is compression. The affected area should be compressed, typically using a bandage, making sure that the compress isn’t too tight as to constrict circulation completely. Elevation is the next stage, when the injury should be elevated above heart level. This will reduce swelling and blood flow to the injury site. The gravity from raising the injury above heart level will assist the drainage of tissue fluids in the injury site. If these steps haven’t eased the injury, it is then time to refer. This means referring to a qualified medical professional for a specific diagnosis and more precise treatment. At this point, a full recovery is more likely. When pain is tolerable enough to do so, it is necessary to do a rehabilitation programme including mobilising, strengthening and dance specific exercise. After the referral stage, the doctor/physiotherapist can give specific guidance and exercises to complete during this rehabilitation period to speed up recovery, with regular checkups to ensure the recovery of the injury.

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