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Bio-banding can reduce injury risks in ballet, as well as team sports

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A new approach to training known as ‘bio-banding´, in which young athletes are grouped according to their physical maturity rather than their age, can help reduce injury risks and has applications beyond the sports field, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescence.

Researchers at the universities of Bath and Bristol found that current practices for grouping and evaluating young dancers in ballet by age could be counterproductive, potentially placing late maturing girls at a significant disadvantage during important phases of their development and at greater risk for injury.

Bio-banding is growing in prominence for sports including football and rugby, and there is also interest in the fields of cricket and gymnastics, Dr. Sean Cumming, senior lecturer at the University of Bath, told the Guardian in December.

Commenting on the findings of the study, Dr. Cumming said: “We think there is potential for vocational dance schools to apply some of the elements of bio-banding not only to improve the experiences of dancers and reduce injury risks but also to ensure talent is not wasted.

“This is not about favouring late or early maturing girls, but rather levelling the playing field and providing the most developmentally-appropriate learning contexts so that dancers, irrespective of physicality, have the same opportunity and aren´t put under undue stress at the wrong points in their development which can cause injury.”

The researchers are working with One Dance UK, the national body for dance, and are looking to develop further education resources for dance teachers regarding the implications of puberty on dance training.