Each day on sports news channels, such as ESPN, highlights from sports including football, baseball, basketball, hockey and many more are featured. Along with the amazing highlights from victories and game changing plays, injuries are also reported to viewers. As a dancer of 15 years, I listen to the injuries and hear how harmful sports can be on the human body and wonder why people do not consider dance to be a sport. While it is an art form, the amount of physical strain it places on a dancer's body is equivalent to that of an athlete.
Dance incorporates basically every part of the body and requires it to make movements beyond what it is ordinarily used to. This is why it takes years and years of training, practice, and conditioning to begin to master dance. Dancers don't use equipment the way athletes do in sports; they use their bodies. Some of the most important "tools" for dancers are strong feet and ankles (see this video to understand why this is so). While being probably the most important parts of the body, they are also the most vulnerable to injury, especially due to overuse.
Dance requires there to be a wide range of movement between forced maximum weight-bearing dorsiflexion (a position called demi-plié) and forced maximum weight-bearing plantar flexion (the en pointe position) (http://lowerextremityreview.com/cover_story/breaking-pointe-foot-ankle-injuries-in-dance). Both of these positions, done repetitively, place an immense amount of stress on the bones of the ankles and feet, as well as their tissues and tendons because they must control each position of the foot in order to avoid injury. Injuries are unavoidable, though, similarly to sports.
As mentioned earlier, proper use of the feet and ankles are imperative to a successful and healthy dance career. However, dance often requires these body parts to move in ways beyond what they are naturally meant to do. This happens over and over and over in a dancer's life and eventually an injury occurs. According to Dr. Jeffery A. Russell, the ankle is frequently injured in dance, accounting for up to 31% of dancers' reported injuries. When foot injuries are included, the combined total accounts for up to 57% of all dance injuries. Also, Achilles tendinopathy and flexor hallucis longus tendinopathy ("dancer's tendinopathy") are frequently encountered overuse conditions. In the foot, spiral fracture of the fifth metatarsal shaft ("dancer's fracture") and bifurcate ligament sprain are two common traumatic injuries, while metatarsal stress fractures, Morton's neuroma, and plantar fasciitis fall into the overuse category (http://lowerextremityreview.com/cover_story/breaking-pointe-foot-ankle-injuries-in-dance).
In the ankle region, lateral sprains are the most common traumatic injury across all sports. Studies show that ankle sprains account for about 21% of all sports-related injury. Repeated injury to the ankle can cause chronic ankle instability which can end an athlete's career completely. Athletes are also at a high risk for Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg, can progress into a degeneration of the tendon.
Similar type and number of injuries show that there is not an extreme difference between dance and sports. Evidence has shown that just about as many dancers and athletes get the same amount of injuries in their foot and ankles (statistics showed the number of ankle injuries was even more among dancers). Both sports and dance require a person to strain their body to its maximum capacity in order to achieve success in his or her activity. If what makes a sport is determined by the affect it has on one's body, dance should definitely be considered a sport. Are there other activities you think should be considered a sport?