I Quit Because it Hurt my Knees - The Importance of Injury Prevention in Color Guard

Knee injuries are so prevalent in the color guard world. Every year it amazes me how many students drop out and/or quit because they hurt their knees by performing movements incorrectly. Oftentimes, doctors who don't understand dance and the mechanics behind it (or behind how it SHOULD be done) advise their patients to completely stop dancing in order to prevent an injury. However, this can result in a weakening of the tissue of the knee and become even more prone to injury! Resting an injured joint is definitely one option to go about healing it, but don't let yourself become lazy. Using the joint is the only way to get it back up to good working order, just make sure to start slow and work your way up if you've had a serious injury.

The best way to go about dealing with a knee injury is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To do this, there are several things you need to do consistently as part of your movement technique.

1. Keep your knees over your toes. Whether you are in a jazz first or you use turn-out, any time your knees bend, they should be aligned directly over your toes. To check for this, look down without curving your back. If you can see your big toe on the inside of your knees, then you are great!

2. Always bend your knees to jump AND to land. Bending your knees to jump is just helpful in getting off the ground in general, however a lot of guard members I see have a really hard time landing on a bent knee. Bending the knee on the landing will help your knee operate as the shock absorber that it is built to be.

3. Place your feet, don't stomp them. Have you ever heard someone walking around like a herd of elephants? They are probably going to have knee problems in the future. Be conscious of how you walk, run, dance, jump, and so on. Make sure you are always placing gently and carrying your weight so you don't plow it into the ground with every step.

4. Don't take painkillers before practice. This might sound counter-intuitive, but taking painkillers before you practice will cause your body to be unable to tell your brain anything about pain. This means if you do get an injury or you aggravate an old injury, you won't know until it's very serious. If you have to take painkillers, I strongly suggest that you only use them about 20 minutes before you go to sleep, and ice the painful area after taking them.

I hope this helps you all in your seasons! It's something I try to impress upon my students, especially since our rehearsal space has a concrete floor in it. I have had some students come through and absolutely destroy their knees by not using them properly, but I've had far more students able to change their techniques to help prevent knee damage. It's up to you as a performer to take care of your body, and up to you as an instructor to help other students learn how to do the same.

Disclaimer: this article is not intended as medical advice, as we are not doctors! If you have injured yourself doing color guard and/or dance, you should definitely go see a doctor about it - just find one who is used to dealing with dancers!

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