Pain Coping Styles of Ballet Performers

By Encarnacion, Maria L. G.; Meyers, Michael C. et al. | Journal of Sport Behavior, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Pain Coping Styles of Ballet Performers


Encarnacion, Maria L. G., Meyers, Michael C., Ryan, Noel D., Pease, Dale G., Journal of Sport Behavior


Although ballet is considered a major division of the performing arts, ballet dancers and athletes experience similar levels of physical and mental stress during training and performances (Heil, 1993; Tajet-Foxell & Rose, 1995). Although the high prevalence of injury in ballet is well documented, no studies have focused on how ballet performers address pain. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to quantify pain coping styles of ballet dancers and to investigate possible differences in regard to skill level and gender. Following written informed consent, the Sports Inventory for Pain (SIP; Meyers, Bourgeois, Stewart, & LeUnes, 1992b) was administered to 135 ballet dancers (mean age 19.2 [pm] 0.6 yrs; 114 females, 21 males). MANOVA and subsequent Wilks's lambda criterion indicated no significant skill effect, F(14,250) = 1.662; p = 0.064, among academy, pre-professional, or professional level dancers. Subtle differences between genders across all subscales collectively revealed a more positive overall pain coping style among females as observed in the composite HURT and OUCH scores. In conclusion, ballet dancers do not exhibit pain coping styles similar to other sport performers. The nonsignificant differences in response styles between skill levels may simply be attributed to greater psychological uniformity of individuals that are drawn to this type of competitive environment.

Although ballet is considered a major division of the performing arts, ballet dancers and athletes experience similar levels of physical and mental stress during training and performances (Heil, 1993; Tajet-Foxell & Rose, 1995). Both dancers and athletes are also exposed to extensive treatment and rehabilitation following injury (Micheli, Gillespie, & Walaszek, 1984; Tajet-Foxell & Rose, 1995). In short, ballet dancers are considered an athletic group by the sports medicine community (Harrington, Crichton, & Anderson, 1993; Patterson, Smith, Everett, & Ptacek, 1998; Teitz, 1991).

Improper form, inattention to proper technique, overtraining, and unanticipated accidents contribute to the remarkable number of injuries observed in ballet (Quirk, 1994), with trauma occurring more frequently at the beginning and conclusion of a stage production (Arnheim, 1980). In order to maintain their position or status among their peers, dancers may overlook or deny the presence of existing trauma. As the problems go unidentified and untreated, injuries may progress from acute to chronic disorders (Ende & Wickstrom, 1982). In addition, dancers may continue to exceed their normal joint range of motion resulting in further ligamentous strain and subsequent musculoskeletal trauma (Arnheim, 1980; Schon, Biddinger, & Greenwood, 1994). In 1989, Bowling observed 47% of dancers with injuries had recurring trauma and 42% experienced an injury within the past six months that ultimately inhibited performance (Ende & Wickstrom, 1982).

The high prevalence of injury in ballet is well documented in the literature, and like many professional athletes, careers in ballet may be shortened due to severe trauma. Injuries range from musculoskeletal strains, various forms of tendinitis, and impingement syndromes to degenerative joint disease (DJD), subluxations, avulsions, and stress fractures (Bachrach, 1987; Bowling, 1989; Ende & Wickstrom, 1982; Hardaker, 1989; Khan et al., 1995; Milan, 1994; Miller, 1987; Quirk, 1994; Teitz, 1991). The subsequent trauma results in decreased performance capacity, particularly when compounded by physical fatigue and excessive training. As physical performance begins to deteriorate, psychological factors resulting in fear, lack of attention, and low self-assurance typically arise (Pease, 1991). In many cases, the dancer will attempt to perform without seeking immediate medical attention. This may lead to continued psychological impairment and further reinforce a cyclic decline in performance (Ende & Wickstrom, 1982 ; Pease, 1991). …

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