Affiliation links physical therapists and dancers, prevents injuries

USF physical therapists and physical therapy doctoral students are working with USF dance students to gather strength and flexibility data that will be used by Dancer Wellness Project, a national registry that tracks dancer injury and wellness. The USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences is now an affiliate of the Dancer Wellness Project.

Starting this fall, doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students and faculty will use equipment in the physical therapy school’s Human Functional Performance Laboratory to measure the strength, flexibility, and body composition of students from the USF School of Theatre and Dance.

In an earlier session, DPT students measured dancers’ strength and flexibility. Watching Raven Jones test her jumping skills are, from left, Megan Ashley, Jeremy Balogh (green shirt), Lindsey Failing, Mary Ware, and Quiana Holsey.

The first measurements will be the baseline for the dancers, and additional measurements will be taken several times during the fall and spring semesters. The data collected will be provided to Dancer Wellness Project, a consortium of dance and health organizations that promote dancer health, wellness, education, and research through the implementation of dance screening, exposure tracking, and injury tracking.

“Professional dancers have a high prevalence of injury and there is a clear need to develop injury prevention programs for dancers,” said Larry Mengelkoch, PhD, PT, associate professor of both the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, and one of the lead faculty members for the project.

“The goal is to promote injury prevention, career longevity, effective and efficient training, and assist dancers, dance educators, and medical care practitioners who interface with dancers. The screening tests identify performance levels in various domains of physical function that are important for dance performance. Each dance student’s individual performance/conditioning level is compared to normative data and the dance students are given feedback on which areas of conditioning could be improved.”

DPT students May Alves and Melanie Smith help dance student Raven Jones test her back extensor strength.

DPT students Arielle Ball and Melanie Smith track the time as USF Dance student Nicole Diaz holds a plank position.

In addition to Dr. Mengelkoch, other faculty included in the project are: Sandy Quillen, PhD, PT (director of the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences), John Mayer, PhD, DC, Jason Highsmith, DPT, CP, Merry Lynn Morris, MFA, Marc Powers, MFA (director of the USF School of Theatre and Dance).

The screening tests are conducted at the Human Functional Performance Laboratory at the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences and include:
– 3 minute Step Test to estimate aerobic capacity
– Vertical Jump Test to estimate anaerobic power
– BOD POD Test to determine body composition (% body fat)
– BIODEX Balance Test for fall risk assessment
– Sit & Reach Test to assess hamstring muscle and low back flexibility
– 1 Repetition Maximum Chest Press & Leg Press to assess upper & lower body strength
– Prone Static Plank Test & Isometric Back Endurance Test to assess core trunk strength

Story by Sarah A. Worth, USF Health Office of Communications
Photos provided by USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences