A dance student is measuring her growth.

Dancers and Growth Spurts: Can You Help Them Through Them?

Did you know that dancers often get injuries during growth spurts?

There is a shift in a dancer’s flexibility during growth spurts yet training continues as if this hasn’t happened. And the continued, unaltered training can cause overuse that results in injuries such as tendinitis.

During growth spurts, a dancer experiences bone growth that outpaces muscle growth. If the growth spurt is significant, a dancer may experience growing pains, temporary clumsiness and a lack of coordination, along with feet that hurt from ballet slippers or pointe shoes they’ve outgrown or are ill-fitting.  When you add the hormonal shifts that are probably also happening, you’ve created the perfect storm that is an awkward period for the dancer to get through.

There are a few things you can tell your dancers during their growth spurts:

  • Encourage them to gently and consistently stretch. Make sure that they are feeling their stretching effort in the middle of the muscle, not at the joints. Feeling the stretch at the joints indicates that the pull of the stretch is too strong. Basically, their tendons are screaming at them to ease up.
  • If they have any discomfort in their knees or ankles, have them reduce the amount of jumping and leaping they are doing. Achilles tendinitis and jumper’s knee be triggered during growth spurts.
  • Encourage your dancers to cross-train during their growth spurts. Perhaps introduce Pilates, yoga or floor barre into their training regime. Cross-training is good at any point, but if they need to temporarily ease up on some of their dance training, it makes them still feel as if they’re getting stronger.
  • Let your dancers know that what they’re going through is normal. It’s not unique to them or caused by something they are doing incorrectly. It’s simply a normal consequence of growing up.

All of your dancers will go through growth spurts: some will be dramatic and some will pass with little fanfare. You’ll undoubtedly notice this and be able to be there for them and let them know that you can be a resource for information and an understanding listener.

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