Performing Arts Medicine Clinic Offers Services to Dance Majors

Posted: November 18, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Although most people don’t typically view dancers as athletes, in reality, the physical demands dancers endure rival almost any other athletic endeavor. Dancers must undergo rigorous training almost every day of their lives and are prone to many types of injuries.

Recognizing this, Elizabeth Price, chair of the Dance Department in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), and Jatin Ambegaonkar, assistant professor of recreation, health and tourism in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), joined forces to create an in-house performing arts medicine clinic for Mason’s dance majors. The clinic opened this fall.

Once the clinic has become well established within the Dance Department, Price and Ambegaonkar hope to expand its services to other programs within CVPA.

“Being one of only a handful of universities that offer a performing arts medicine clinic puts Mason out there as a premiere institution,” says Ambegaonkar, who is also a certified athletic trainer and has a background in dance medicine. He adds that the partnership across disciplines was supported by the deans of CVPA and CEHD, as well as the provost.

Stephanie Symons
Stephanie Symons staffs the new clinic.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Symons

Currently, the clinic is staffed by Stephanie Symons, a graduate student in the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism. A nationally certified and state licensed athletic trainer, Symons is the first point of contact for injured dancers. She develops therapeutic exercises and other treatments to help rehabilitate them. Symons has already treated about 25 students since the clinic opened.

According to Symons, dancers typically come into the clinic with sprained ankles or strained muscles, although some injuries may be more serious. Symons will often work with a student’s doctor to make sure they concur on the rehabilitation process.

“These students are supremely conditioned people, so the treatment and rehabilitation must be much more aggressive because they are putting their bodies through so much,” says Symons. “Students realize the importance of tracking the progress of their recovery and have been very receptive to the clinic.”

The performing arts medicine clinic teamed up with the Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing (SMART) Laboratory to perform the first preventative screening of all incoming freshmen in the Dance Department. The SMART researchers — faculty and students in the undergraduate and master’s degree programs in Athletics Training and Sports Medicine — are doing a longitudinal study to determine if students are predisposed to any injuries or other physical problems. As they track the progress of each incoming class, they can establish baseline physical values on university-level dancers.

The clinic will also be used as a clinical field experience facility for students in the Athletic Training Education program. Students from the program will be able to observe Symons working with dancers and learn about the unique aspects of dance medicine. In addition, Symons will begin training students to work in the clinic.

“Although the injuries are essentially the same, dance medicine is very different from a regular athletic clinic,” says Price. “The language and the movement of the athlete are different and must be treated in a very specific way.”

The Performing Arts Building expansion now under way will create more space for the clinic. With a larger space, more students can be treated simultaneously and longer hours and more services can be provided.

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