Reducing injury risk: pioneering research at the royal ballet school

Reducing injury risk: pioneering research at The Royal Ballet School 

Ballet is a profession that comes with its own set of challenges, particularly the ever-present risk of injury. At The Royal Ballet School, we take pride in prioritising the health and well-being of our dancers through our groundbreaking Healthy Dancer Programme, managed by a team of 20 top-tier healthcare professionals.

Our unique programme is tailored to each individual dancer, ensuring plans that support both their physical and mental well-being. This initiative enables them to seamlessly balance academic studies with rigorous training, guaranteeing a healthy and happy journey throughout their time at the School.

A recent triumph in our commitment to dancer well-being comes from our former Physical Development Lead, Niall MacSweeney. His innovative research, published in the prestigious American Journal of Sports Medicine, delves into the risks of injuries in pre-professional ballet dancers, specifically focusing on the lower extremities during jumps and landings.

We spoke with Niall about why research like this matters:

My primary motivation in starting the PhD was to get a better understanding of our dancers so that we can provide the best possible support for them on their journey through the School. I was interested in understanding how dancers can stay healthy and continue to progress with their technique while they mature into adults. Compared to many other dance organisations, The Royal Ballet School provides a great platform for research and innovation because of the environment they have created for their healthcare programme. This means that we can collect and store data easily, and collaborate and discuss ideas with other members of the team and artistic staff in a way that is quite unique. I hope that my research can help to share some of this knowledge with the wider dance community and push dance science forward, benefitting dancers across the world

The study, which included 255 ballet dancers, revealed crucial insights. Addressing asymmetries during certain phases of jumps was identified as a key factor in reducing injury risk. Follow-up research on 242 dancers homed in on specific asymmetries during the take-off phase of double-leg jumps, especially with left limb dominance, as a significant injury risk. Notably, girls showed more significant asymmetries in certain phases of the double-leg jump.

This study underscores the necessity of focusing on and addressing asymmetries to diminish injury risk in elite pre-professional ballet dancers, with a keen eye on gender-specific considerations. The Royal Ballet School remains at the forefront of dance science, driving innovation that benefits not only our dancers but also contributes to the wider dance community worldwide. Thank you, Niall, for your dedication to a future filled with healthy dancers.

Learn more about our healthcare programme here.