A new dance craze is sweeping the country but this time it's not driven by a song on the radio, but by prime-time shows on television. This fall at least five different networks* will run shows about dancing, and tens of millions of us will watch. Dancing has become so popular in the US, in fact, that it's not only inspiring new shows but a whole new area of medicine.

Because they are so graceful and make it look so easy, it's tempting to think of dancers as only performers. But spend anytime at all with them in rehearsal and you quickly begin to appreciate them as athletes.

Jamie Dee is a professional ballerina who spends at least 8 hours a day, every day, pushing her body to it's limits, and occasionally, past them. Jamie recently suffered a stress fracture in her foot. "All I did was take one step. And it just didn't feel right. And so I tried to keep dancing and push it a little but somehow my foot just wouldn't respond," says Jamie.

But her medical team did, one of the first in the country dedicated almost entirely to dancers. "We have an athletic trainer with them all the time, they get into see our sports medicine doctors, usually within the same day, and then we have all the specialists, right here," says Robin Hunter, Ohio State University Medical Center.

Doctor Robin Hunter runs the program at Ohio State University Medical Center. From physical trainers to chiropractors, from nutritionists to bone specialists, this program doesn't miss a step when it comes to dancers. Hunter refers to them as the ultimate athletes, and says for too long their talents have been underappreciated, and their needs overlooked.

"They have extremes of flexibility, endurance, strength, coordination, agility, and, of course, all of the beautiful art work that goes into them being performing artists," says Robin. "That's why Ohio State wanted to put attention to this very special group of athletes is because that have needs that are very specific for their particular art form and their athleticism."

Ten years ago there were about 30 thousand professional dancers and choreographers in the US, ten years from now that number will jump 50%**.

Experts say most of the injuries a dancer suffers come from over-use. Many professionals start dancing as young as age 4 and dance into their 30's, creating unusual stress in places like their ankles and knees.

*Dance Floods TV, and Hollywood Jumps in with Characters Hoofing to Better Life
The Canadian Press, August 14, 2008
Click here to view article online
**Occupational Handbook 2008-2009, US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls

Ohio State University
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