Wearable sensor finds dancers dancing through pain

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A new wearable sensor system developed by Curtin University has tracked dancers’ movement and provided valuable insight into their adaptation to dance through debilitating pain.

The study, published in PLUS ONE, analyzed the movement of 52 pre-professional ballet and contemporary dance students from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). The wearable sensor system was developed as part of a collaboration between the Curtin School of Allied Health and the Curtin Institute for Computation.

Lead Researcher Ph.D. Student and former professional ballerina Danica Hendry of the Curtin School of Allied Health said that while almost all of the dancers experienced pain, only half of them had to stop or change their movements.

“Fifty of the 52 dancers reported experiencing pain, with 26 reporting that this pain was interfering with their training/performance to reduce their load,” said Ms. Hendry.

“Despite a high prevalence of musculoskeletal pain, the severity of pain and disability in dancers was generally low, with the lower back and ankle/foot being the most frequently reported.”

Ms Hendry said existing measures such as activity diaries and schedules did not capture dancers’ specific movements.

“Previous research on dancer movement quantity has focused on measuring workload simply by looking at daily dance time,” said Ms. Hendry.

“More recently, wearable sensors have been used to determine the training intensity of dancers during their daily training, showing that while dancers complete several hours of training per day, the majority of that time is spent in ‘low to moderate intensity’ exercise.

“Both approaches provide useful insights, but until now there has been no way to provide detailed information such as the number of repetitions of the movement.”

Research leader and John Curtin Distinguished Professor Peter O’Sullivan, also of the Curtin School of Allied Health, said he was proud to have been involved in the development of a wearable sensor system that could detect dancers’ movement quantity and quality.

“While athlete tracking systems are commonly used in many elite sports, they have only recently emerged in the dance field and only assess the amount of movement performed by the dancers,” said Professor O’Sullivan.

“In recent years, much attention has been paid to quantifying athlete training to aid in understanding the development and experience of pain and disability.

“Future application of wearable sensor technology offers clinicians the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the interrelationships between pain, disability and movement in athletes to better inform person-centered care.

“However, there are some challenges of the wearable sensor system that need to be addressed before more demanding applications can be performed.”

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More information:
Danica Hendry et al, Quantity and quality of movement: How are they related to pain and disability in dancers?, PLUS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0268444

Provided by Curtin University

Citation: Wearable sensor finds dancers are dance through pain (2022, May 30), retrieved May 30, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-wearable-sensor-dancers-pain.html

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