What is the Dancer Wellness Project?


The Dancer Wellness Project (DWP) is a consortium of organizations that promote dancer health, wellness, education, and research through the implementation of dance screening, exposure tracking, and injury surveillance. This goal is to promote injury prevention, career longevity, effective and efficient training, and assist dancers, dance educators, and medical professional who interface with dancers. The main goal of the DWP is to provide the technological infrastructures and other resources needed to facilitate and support the myriad projects of participating organizations/affiliates.

Central to the DWP is its commonly-shared website which provides the mechanisms for data entry and analysis, the generation of unique personalized profiles with recommended cross training protocols, customized self-reported data collection modules, coded data export for research purposes, and an automated system to collect extrinsic risk factors data. The DWP website provides linkages between screening, exposure, and injury data and other various data modules. Though initially developed as a teaching tool, the DWP website now facilitates multi-institutional research collaborations as well as provides an extensive database for many affiliates. Robust data protection mechanisms have been developed including the utilization of industry-standard data encryption of transmitted data, multilevel administrative accounts, and redundant backup systems.

The DWP website, which gets thousands of hits monthly, serves hundreds of users around the world, supports multiple dancers health and research initiatives, and is proving to be a valuable resource for many internet users seeking dance wellness related information and resources. There are a number of feature-rich modules to the system that are grouped into major categories, several of which are summarized here.

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A 'screen' is the collection of data about a particular dancer including information such as a dancer's strength, flexibility, and technique. These data are often used as teaching tools for the dancer, may be used for research projects, or part of a medical inventory used by medical professionals working with dancers. To support the multiple screening initiatives, customized screening forms can be created using the nearly 200 data collection modules, many of which have online error checking to help minimize data entry errors and online video instructions  to demonstrate how the tests are conducted. The use of commonly available internet enabled devices such as notebook computers, computer tablets, and mobile devices during the screening process eliminates the need for paper forms and allows dancers and affiliates to gain access to data and profiles almost immediately after a screen.

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Exposure Tracking

Whereas screening data provides information about the intrinsic characteristics of a particular dancer, exposure data provides information about how often the dancer is actively involved in dance related activities and what risk factors are involved with that activity. The exposure tracking module allows users to not only collect information on how long and how many times a dancer is involved with dance related activities, but also data related to other factors such as equipment and environment. This system supports both time-based and event-based exposure reporting methodologies and provides extensive detail about other exposure variables. To aid in streamlining regular (daily) data entry of this large data set, these variables are grouped into various customizable definitions which are then used in establishing the online class and rehearsal schedule of events. At the start of each event, the designated teacher or director receives email notification about the dance event including a list of dancers. The individual simply replies to the email (without having to type anything), and the DWP will do all the necessary data entry automatically.

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Injury Surveillance

Unlike screenings and exposure tracking, which are typically a single event, injuries have a 'life span' (onset through resolution). The DWP allows for the monitoring of injuries through the duration of the injury cycle and supports multiple definitions of injury, e.g. time loss (how much time a dancer is unable to participate in dance activities), function loss (how much impairment to motion they experience), financial loss (how much financial impact is involved). The automated email system allows designated users, such as teachers, directors, or health professionals, to be kept abreast of various open injury cases and provides reminders to follow up with additional data entry. Various graphs available in the summary profiles (see below) display new and open injury cases, and the use of customized survey modules can be used to prompt dancers for additional self-reported information regarding their injury including activity levels.

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Self-Reported Data

Some information used by the DWP can only be provided by the dancer and affiliates can custom design various questionnaires to collect this information. The DWP can also automatically email reminders to the dancers to notify them that there is a request for this additional information. Examples of these self-reported data modules include perceived exertion during a class/rehearsal, intake surveys, mental health surveys, and even activity levels in class/rehearsal.

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The DWP develops a unique profile for each dancer drawing upon all of the data input systems: screening, exposure, injury, and self-reported. (See sample) For the dancer, these profiles also aid in the creation of a cross-training profile with recommended exercise programs to address cited areas. Video demonstrations of many of the exercises are available along with anatomical imagery and descriptive text of all musculature involved/affected. The comprehensive cross-linked system provides connections to the various resources available.

Additionally, multiple dancer profiles can be grouped to help summarize trends or averages across different dancer groups. These summary profiles are also useful in creating a general profile for an entire group.

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The concerns that professional dancers have about disclosure of health related information are well known therefore, security and confidentiality of all data is critically factored into the development and operation of the website. Extensive security protocols have been implemented to protect the confidentiality of all data and are compliant with US Federal Laws governing the use of data used with human subjects research.

The website utilizes SSL, an industry-standard data encryption transport mechanism, with all transmissions of sensitive data. Dancers have access to the website via secured, password protected accounts. Administrators are able to access data for all the dancers in their respective institution however, cross-institutional access is not available – users at one institution cannot gain access to data from another institution.

There are multiple levels of security roles and administrators at each affiliate can use these roles to define who within their organization has access to what kind of data.

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With all relevant display of data and data entry, appropriate units of measures are used. Those dance institutions in countries where the metric system is used will have data fields in centimeters and kilograms as opposed to inches and pounds.

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