Everyone loves to dance—there are few things on Earth as liberating as losing yourself in music and movement. Adrenaline floods your body and shuts off the part of your brain that thinks ordinary thoughts. Did I leave the oven on? Does she like me? That parking ticket was unfair! All of those kinds of thoughts disappear when we begin to dance.
But it is for exactly this reason that dancing can sometimes lead to injury. When we are dancing, lost in the moment and amped up on adrenaline and endorphins, we may take dangerous risks, and we may not feel the kind of pain that might ordinarily alert us to an injury.
So, with all this in mind, it’s important to remember that certain dance moves are riskier than they may appear to be. Here are five dance moves that you should never do unless you’re experienced and professionally trained (and in some cases not even then):
1. Never do backflips without looking behind you.
In this video we see an overly excited groom at his wedding causing what looks like possibly a serious injury to one of the bridesmaids. It’s understandable that he should be so excited—after all, it’s the happiest day of his life (and we can only hope it was still happy after this cringe-inducing incident). And he’s obviously spent many long hours keeping himself in good physical condition and practicing his backflip. You can almost hear him thinking: This is gonna be great! This’ll knock their socks off! Watch this everybody!
And then he clobbers that poor girl with his feet, like Spider Man coming down on some unfortunate street criminal.
So let this be a lesson to anyone considering a physically extravagant move like a backflip in a public place: Make sure you have enough room before attempting this. Or to put it another way, look before you leap.
(However, if you are going to do a backflip in a public place, try doing it—carefully—while wearing a pair of light-up LED sneakers. That would probably look really, really cool!)
2. Try not to bang your head too hard.
Headbanging, traditionally, has always been something you’re most likely to see at heavy metal and punk rock shows than at venues where people gather to dance. But you also see it at EDM (electronic dance music) events, and it can be frightening, as the video on this EDM blog shows.
Having too much to drink (or too much of something else) can make us careless about the space around our bodies while we’re in motion, especially if we’re also caught up in the ecstatic feeling that we get from dancing. And again, this combination of factors can also cause us to ignore pain signals from our bodies. Keep this in mind when you’re dancing. Headbanging can damage the muscles in your neck and back, and if you’re careless (and it’s no fun to do it any other way), it can cause a concussion. It may even contribute to a stroke!
Also, it makes you look ridiculous. So knock it off.
3. Avoid attempting breakdancing head-spins and hand stands unless you really know what you’re doing.
Breakdancing is more obviously dangerous than other forms of dance, and because it’s obviously difficult to learn, most untrained people are discouraged from attempting the many dangerous moves associated with it.
Nevertheless, amateur breakdancers (and even pros) suffer a lot of injuries, especially from certain moves. These injuries mostly affect the spine, knee, wrist, shoulder, and ankle, according to the German researchers who have studied the problem. In fact, of the 144 dancers who were studied, 96 percent of the amateurs and all of the professionals had sustained some kind of serious injury at some point in their dancing careers. Worse, the study found that dancers often do not give themselves enough time to heal completely from injuries before heading right back out onto the dance floor.
So what do the researchers recommend to prevent these kinds of injuries? “Helmets, wrist guards and wraps for the knees and elbows.” Admittedly, while these measures will undoubtedly prevent many injuries, they won’t look nearly as cool as a pair of light-up led shoes.
4. Don’t try anything you see on Youtube that looks really difficult or dangerous—because it probably is!
An unfortunate trend has begun to manifest itself: people—often very young people—foolishly attempting to replicate dance moves they see demonstrated online. In many cases the videos depicting these dance moves are instructional in nature, but the moves themselves can still be dangerous to anyone who is inexperienced or not in the necessary physical condition.
Moves like “the Scorpion” (in which the dancer brings her back leg up over her head from behind, like a scorpion’s tail) or the “over split leg mount” (the dancer brings her leg up behind her head from the front of her body) can cause injury to muscles that are not properly stretched and conditioned, or they can cause the dancer to lose his or her balance and fall.
Attempting these moves without proper training and supervision can cause serious back and hip injuries that—ironically—can make it impossible for someone ever to pursue a career in dance.
5. Beware of the repetitive moves you see on the ballet stage.
Be aware that there are risks associated with all types of dance—even ballet dancing!
Serious, artistic or professionally-oriented dancing causes all manner of injuries, some of them acute (e.g., an injury caused by a fall), and some of them developed gradually over a long period of time (e.g., stress fractures).
One of the worst culprits is “en pointe” dancing. This is when the dancer puts all of her weight on the tips of her toes, often on just one foot. En pointe dancing looks very graceful, but it is a difficult skill to learn, and the learning curve is a painful one. And for professional dancers, the long-term consequences can include ankle sprains, hammertoes, trigger toe, stress fractures, bunions, and bursitis, among other things. There is even a condition known as the “Dancer’s Fracture,” a painful fracture of the fifth metatarsal that occurs when a dancer lands badly.
* * *So, by all means go out and have a good time dancing, whether your preference is for EDM raves, breakdancing, ballroom, ballet, or whatever. But be sensible, and leave the difficult moves to the people who have carefully and rigorously trained to perform them.