Another position I see young students trying to achieve in order to get more flexible is oversplits in second position. Unfortunately stretching young hips past their natural physiological range runs the risk of permanent damage, so we need to be very careful in how we achieve mobility in this position. Any flexibility training requires an intelligent and multifactorial approach, with a deep understanding of human anatomy guiding its application. Doing this ensures that young dancers will be able to continue dancing well into adulthood and live a normal, pain free life when they do decide to stop performing.
When I have raised my concerns about over stretching in second in the past, many parents and teachers have resisted this, saying that their kids are fine. I had been struggling to find a way to demonstrate the very real risks of this kind of training, as the results are often not visible for several years after the fact.
Then one day, one student came for an appointment, who's history and x-rays demonstrate my point exactly. She has graciously let me use for education purposes and is hopeful that this will help other students avoid the issues that she has had.
Just to clarify - I have no issues with extreme mobility when achieved safely, and with the appropriate control. In fact, much of the work I do with the high level, elite students is focused exactly on this. However we focus on achieving this through educated and intelligent, up to date, smart ways, to avoid any potential issues, and the students are educated to manage their own bodies. This means that they will be able to continue dancing well into adulthood, and be able to live a normal, pain free life when they do decide to stop performing.
Anyone training young students, and the parents of these students need to be very aware of the possible dangers when trying to improve mobility. The students themselves often find it difficult to see the long term consequences of their actions, and for them, achieving a certain position is often their end goal. It is our responsibility to learn the safest possible ways to help them to achieve their goals, as well as educating them on the appropriateness of their goals to their chosen career.
Hip damage from performing oversplits in second
The following images are from a young dancer, now 14, who had started experiencing hip pain at the age of 10. X-rays were taken and they were told that there was nothing wrong. (Her teacher told her it was normal to have hip pain..!) She continued to have hip issues and had X-rays retaken again at ages 13 and again at 14 before she saw me.
Look carefully at the images below, and you can see that the shape of the hip socket has actually shifted due to the aggressive stretching that she was doing at her dance school. This has now calcified and so will remain this way for the rest of her life.
The first two images are when this student was 10 Years Old: