Wayne State dance and physical therapy students collaborate to develop dancer wellness screenings

Students from the College of Fine, Performing and Communications Arts' Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance and the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Physical Therapy (PT) program collaborated to develop and implement dance injury prevention screenings for dance students. The screenings are aimed to prevent injury by bringing awareness to existing movement patterns and deficits that may be affecting a dancer's performance.

dance and PT studentsThe collaboration started when PT student Abigail Skallerud contacted professors of Wayne State's dance program to collect data for her research, "Comparing Functional Lordosis in Modern Dancers With and Without Back Pain" (Brumbaugh, Fudalia, Parker, Skallerud, Robertson, Pepin, 2020). Skallerud's research aimed to determine if the magnitude of lower back curvature measured during various dance movements correlated with low back pain. The research was presented nationally at the American Physical Therapy Combined Section Meeting in 2021 and will be presented at the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science Annual Conference in October 2021. Skallerud was also a recipient of the American Physical Therapy Association Performing Arts SIG Scholarship that recognizes students for their contribution to performing arts physical therapy.

"Because of my involvement and research in dance science, I was introduced to Abigail and Dr. Marie-Eve Pepin [PT research mentor and PT faculty member] through this project," explained Lecturer Hannah Andersen. "Following this project, we had many productive discussions, and an idea emerged to develop a collaborative project that would benefit both of our students."

A dance injury prevention screening was developed based on current research in sport and dance medicine, and tailored to the needs and learning experiences of Wayne State dance and PT students. Dr. Pepin (PT faculty) and Hannah Andersen (dance faculty) partnered during the 2019-20 academic year to create, develop and implement the first screening event for the WSU dance program. The initial screening - performed by PT doctoral students and faculty, along with volunteers from Henry Ford Health System - took place in January 2020 at Old Main. The screenings were performed on undergraduate dance students enrolled in DNC 3190: Movement Analysis. The screening included more than 50 students and faculty and was positively received by both the dance and PT program participants.

"The inclusion of PT students to the testing and research initiative had clear benefits to the PT students, as they are required to perform a research project to graduate," said Dr. Pepin. "A group of four students will be analyzing some of the data collected from this screen for their research project, titled 'Contributors to compensated turnout in college dancers.' Also, the students will have to examine and treat dancers after graduation, yet they are not yet familiar with the specific needs of this unique patient population. Real hands-on practice and knowledge of injury prevention was very formative."

dance and PT studentsAndersen and Dr. Pepin continued their collaboration for the 2020-21 school year and brainstormed ways to create a more functional dance screen that would be more specific to the WSU dance program's needs and could also be performed remotely, due to the pandemic.

"Our goal was to create a screening protocol for modern/contemporary dance students and students taking classes in dances of the African diaspora," explained Andersen. "Currently, data on injury risks and screening protocols are catered to ballet dancers, leaving much to be discovered for dancers practicing in other dance forms.

More research needs to be performed to determine the best injury prevention screening programs, and Dr. Pepin and Andersen want to help fill that research void while preventing injuries in the dancers.

Throughout winter 2021, Dr. Pepin and Andersen worked with Skallerud - now a PT graduate - and second-year PT student Veronica Prieur to conduct virtual screenings on sophomore B.F.A. dance majors. The screening consisted of dance-specific movement-competency screens, cardiorespiratory tests and a short mental health screen. The most innovative part of this screening was the creation of a modern and contemporary dance-specific movement-competency protocol, which has not been previously published or documented. Each team member has unique skills to contribute to the process, from injury prevention, sports medicine, evidence-based research, dance technique, and WSU dance program needs and requirements. This unique collaboration was instrumental to creating and administering the dance screen successfully.

"By 2022, we hope to fully implement a revised version of the functional screening to students in dance majors performing modern, contemporary and African dance," said Andersen, "and to share our findings at national conferences and publish in a selected dance journal."

Da'Stanza Murphy, az2370@wayne.edu
CFPCA information officer

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