Harkness Center for Dance Injuries Experience

November 30, 2018
Chloe Dacosta ’19 Biology Major
  • Chloe Dacosta '19

This summer I had the privilege of being accepted as one of two general internship recipients at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Medical Center. I have continuously devoted my time to bridging the gap between dance/ external expressions of movement and the internal systems, especially the musculoskeletal, that create this mass, which is able to move through space and relate to its surroundings. Throughout this experience not only could I continue on this exploration, however, also be exposed to various medical practices and research that essentially act as our bodies fuel behind the scenes, constantly filling us up when we are weak in order for us to keep going.

 The first lesson that I learned at Harkness was the importance of recognizing the body as a biopsychosocial model that is alive. Not everyone responds to one style or pathway of treatment. However, it was refreshing to work with dancers because of their heightened awareness of their bodies and their drive to not only heal and keep moving, but also understand what part of the internal body failed them and how they can work to return to a healthy body. They approach healing holistically and recognize that the body is connected by fascia and other connective tissue, which causes one part of it to affect another, creating one mass of tissue that moves in space. I was able to view those patience who’s psychology would get in the way of their heeling because if they couldn’t grasp a concepts that the therapist was explaining to them, their mind would become flustered and frustrated, which got in the way of their holistic healing. This reaffirmed the importance f understanding the body as a biopsychosocial model and the fact that before you can start to manipulate the body and take charge of heeling you have to understand it through this lens.

Throughout the internship I was afforded with the opportunity to shadow both the physical therapists and the athletic trainers during on site and offsite training. Much of this treatment offsite was to do with screening professional companies before performances. The screening includes making them perform tests like the step test, the airplane test (that tests knee and ankle stability or valgus), the topple test (which tests the alignment of the dancers lower extremities throughout turns) including many others that examine their strength, flexibility, ankle range of motion, balance on one leg and two, and the inversion, eversion, pronation supination of the foot and calcaneus positions. Much of the dancers didn’t understand why small movements like the step test were even relevant to dance. This is another instance where I noticed the importance of dancers understanding that the body is a biopsychosocial model, where movements that aren’t necessary typical ‘dance steps’ are important at promoting their optimal performance in the athletic form. Another informative aspect was shadowing the orthopedic surgeons along with the medical residents. This included procedures like the removal of both os triguonum’s of a classical pointe dancer due to its constant hitting and irritation of the Achilles tendon and the calcaneus during plantar flexion, the manipulation of the foot to discover a Mortons Neuroma and various other diagnosis’s from a patients complaints of pain around the lateral ankle due to a torn anterior talofibular ligament, luxating patella and ball-and-socket  synovial joint replacements.

At the end of my Harkness experience I left with the opportunity to come back during the fall and participate in two research studies with them. The first is developing a functional movement test that can be given to adolescent females in order to test whether they are physical and mentally ready for the harsh demands of pointe work. This was done with the partnerships of Northwell Health’s Orthopedics Lab. A belt is attached to the waist of a dancers with a censor sitting in the middle of the lumbar spine. The dancer is asked to stand on one leg and just 8 times upend down and hold after the last one in pile (bent knee). What we are looking for is the tracking of the knee over the second toe (knee valves) the stability of the knee and ankle joint, range of motion of the pile and whether the hip is hiked up in order to help them jump or if they’re using the power of their gluteus. The second research study is my personal favorite which   is more surrounding discourse of the dance and medical community. Various cultural groups were gathered around non-Western forms of dance some including African styles, hip hop, Asian styles and more. The purpose of generating his discourse is to discover how injuries differ in these forms of dance from Western forms like ballet and modern and whether these injuries require a new non-Western form of medicine required to treat them. This may include Chinese acupuncture for musculature that, which differs from traditional western acupuncture in that it is a rougher and more painful sensation when it is done but releases paint or a longer time period.