By offering physical therapy on campus, the UVU dance department is taking active steps to protect their students.
Dancers receive classes in both conditioning and kinesiology, the academic study of body mechanics and movements. According to Amy Markgraf-Jacobson, associate professor of modern dance, most dancers rely on a trial and error system of self-care for injuries.
“Foot and ankle injuries are the most common,” said Markgraf-Jacobson. “Other injuries can include stress fractures and muscle or cartilage tears.”
Markgraf-Jacobson met James Reichman of Utah Valley Physical Therapy Spine and Sports Medicine after dancers began visiting his clinic.
“We were treating a number of dancers [at our main clinic],” said Reichman. “By the time they came to us, they needed to sit out for three months.”
Student dancers work five to eight hours a day on campus. Many of those students also work as dance instructors off-campus to supplement their income.
“Dancers don’t get an off-season,” said Reichman. “There’s always another performance, always more training.”
“Historically, most UVU dancers have not had insurance,” said Markgraf-Jacobson. “Even then, many insurance companies do not cover physical therapy.”
The National Association of Dance requires university dance programs to have a location and a team of physical therapists in order to be accredited.
Reichman and his team of physical therapists have a dedicated space in the basement of the Liberal Arts Building. The one-room facility is equipped with two massage tables, a stimulation therapy and ultrasound machine, as well as ice and heat treatments.
“It’s free, and so it’s motivating to go,” said Emric Thompson, a sophomore modern dance major. “When I’m broken, I can see [the therapists] and get clear and direct answers.”
“Last semester, it kept me in classes,” said Aseneth Castaneda, a junior ballet major. “I had calf issues and the therapists made a big difference in my ability to be effective as I keep dancing.”
Three physical therapists rotate a schedule which allows the dancers treatments throughout the day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday each week.
“Having physical therapy integrated into our program allows the dancers to receive free screenings of their injuries,” said Markgraf-Jacobson. “They learn whether they need rest, some tape, or if they need to see a doctor.”
One student in particular has experienced the full-scale benefits of having therapists available.
“Last semester, I had a lot of knee pain,” said Alyssa Hajjar, a sophomore ballroom major. “The physical therapist recommended I see a doctor before doing any more dancing. I saw a doctor and learned I needed to have surgery to remove torn cartilage from my knee. If I didn’t see a therapist, I wouldn’t have seen a doctor and I would have stopped dancing because the pain was so bad.”
Physical therapist Holly Cloward says dancers come in much closer to injury than they originally thought.
Dancers are still required to take kinesiology classes and the therapists believe the class is important.
“It helps that most dancers have [a] fairly good understanding of how their body moves,” said therapist Ian Blatter.
“That understanding also allows the dancers to come back and let me know what did, or did not, work and why,” said Cloward.
Scheduling and departmental rules limit the therapy in a few ways. According to Caitlin Brophy, a junior ballet major, students have to schedule appointments two weeks in advance.
“The dance department tells me I should see the therapists,” said Ruth Crowder, a freshman ballroom major. “But because I’m not yet 18-years-old, the department tells me I can’t be seen by the therapists.”
Reichman said he and his team need more time with the dancers.
“Athletic trainers are on the sidelines during games and are present during practices,” said Reichman.