LIFESTYLE
12/10/2015 14:38 BST | Updated 12/10/2015 14:59 BST

Dancers Warned Against Copying 'Dangerous' Stretching Tutorials After Rise In Injuries

Young and inexperienced dancers are being urged not to copy over-stretching exercises they see online, following an increase in injuries that could ruin their chances of a career in dance.

Dance physiotherapist Lisa Howell says she's witnessed an increase in hip and back injuries in young dancers aged between 11 and 14, which she puts down to over-stretching exercise tutorials being shared on social media sites such as YouTube.

"It is very disconcerting because while they're doing these moves to make themselves better dancers, they are often actually ruling themselves out of a professional career because they are getting injuries so young," Howell told ABC News.

Some of the offending stretches include 'scorpions' and 'over split leg mounts'.

dancer stretch

The scorpion stretch

Dance in the UK has grown in popularity over the years. According to the Central Council for Physical Recreation, 10% of the UK population take part in the activity.

Marko Panzic, who runs the Dream Dance Company labelled the social media trend as "dangerous".

"The biggest issue we have now is that people are taking moves from rhythmic gymnastics and trying to insert them into dance and trying to do this in a very, very quick way as a one-stop shop, rather than looking at all of the detailed training that has to go in before any of those tricks are actually attempted," he told ABC News.

"If they look like they are unsafe they probably are."

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It's believed that youngsters are copying the tutorials in a bid to get flexible, fast.

But Matthew Wyon, vice president of International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), says that you don't actually have to practice extreme stretching to increase flexibility.

"The intensity at which a stretch should be held has had little research until recently," he writes in a blog post entitled 'Dancers and stretching: How hard should you push?' on 4Dancers.org.

"We often feel that unless the stretch is just below the pain barrier, the point where the muscle starts to wobble, nothing will change; this often equates to '8 out of 10' intensity," he explains.

But it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, a series of recent studies are challenging this concept.

"The first showed that at 8/10 intensity there was a huge increase in inflammation blood markers, suggesting that the muscle being stretched was actually being traumatised — but at lower intensities this effect wasn’t noticed," writes Wyon.

"A six week experiment on dancers who were split into one group that stretched at their usual intensity (8/10), and another at the lower intensity (3-5/10), noted that the dancers in the lower intensity group increased their grande battement and developpé height.

"So it seems less is more when it comes to stretching intensity!"

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