Do you know a dancer who can position themselves like Gumby? Do they have difficulty standing in 1st position with their knees straight and heels together?
Both of these can be due to joint hypermobility, which is simply when a person has more motion at a joint than the expected range. It can affect just the hands and feet, just the lower body, or it can be generalized and affect many joints throughout the body. It may or may not be related to pain.
The prevalence of joint hypermobility in dancers is high. Studies estimate between 60-90% of dancers exhibit generalized hypermobility, with the condition more common in students than professionals.
Hypermobility can show up in a dancer’s performance as:
Frequently looking down
Sticking tongue out, tongue searching, lip biting
Finger, foot, neck tension
Persistent tightness in muscles
In addition to the appearance of being “double jointed,” other signs/symptoms associated with hypermobility include:
Delayed wound healing
Clumsiness or frequently bumping into objects
Sitting/standing in awkward positions, inability be still, preference to sit on the floor
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Frequent headaches and migraines
Sensitivities to medicines, foods, loud noises, bright lights, chemicals
What causes hypermobility?
There are many reasons a dancer may be hypermobile. Improper stretching and training methods may create hypermobility at the joints and should be avoided. Soft tissue injuries may also result in extra motion at the injured joint. Generalized hypermobility is mostly due to the shape of the bones, muscle tone, muscle strength, collagen strength, genetics, and sex (more common in females, with peak hypermobility coinciding with peak of progesterone levels about 7 days prior to onset of menstruation).
How do I know if my dancer is hypermobile?
The Beighton score is a common tool used to assess generalized joint hypermobility. The maximum score is 9 with higher numbers indicating more hypermobility.
Research has shown that dancers with scores 0-2 and 5+ are at increased risk of injury. It is thought that because dance requires extreme ranges of motion, dancers with some hypermobility are better protected against injury compared to those without or with lower levels of hypermobility. Because higher levels of hypermobility are associated with increased injury risk, a generalized stability program is recommended for dancers scoring 6+ for prevention of injuries.
Are all hypermobile dancers flexible?
It may seem strange, but NO – not all hypermobile dancers are flexible. Many times, dancers will score points on the Beighton scale for hypermobile hands, wrists, elbows, and knees, but not be able to palm the floor. These dancers have a lot of movement in their joints but subjectively they feel “tight.” In a hypermobile body, the brain senses the extra motion and tries to stabilize and protect the joints from injury by tensing the muscles around them. Over time, the constant muscle gripping results in feeling “tight.” These dancers generally make more flexibility gains using a stability program rather than a stretching routine.
What do I do if my dancer is hypermobile?
If you believe your dancer is hypermobile and would like a full evaluation with recommendations for a stability program, click the button below to schedule a phone consult with us to discuss your options.