Science Daily reports - "Ballet Dancers' Brains Reveal The Art Of Imitation". Understanding "mirroring" in the brain leads scientist to conclude that better rehabilitation could occur for injured athletes if they keep watching the actions they are restricted from performing. An MRI study showed how their brains responded. While out of rehearsals and pointe shoes, keep watching!
"The University College London (UCL) study, published in the latest online edition of Cerebral Cortex , may help in the rehabilitation of people whose motor skills are damaged by stroke, and suggests that athletes and dancers could continue to mentally train while they are physically injured.
...Professor Patrick Haggard of UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience says: ......Our findings suggest that once the brain has learned a skill, it may simulate the skill without even moving, through simple observation. An injured dancer might be able to maintain their skill despite being temporarily unable to move, simply by watching others dance. This concept could be used both during sports training and in maintaining and restoring movement ability in people who are injured."
"Deborah Bull, Creative Director at Royal Opera House (ROH2), says: "We are delighted to be working with Patrick Haggard, our Associate Scientist, on this fascinating area of research. As a former dancer, I have long been intrigued by the different ways in which people respond to dance. Through this and future research, I hope we'll begin to understand more about the unique ways in which the human body can communicate without words."
There is nothing more stressful for a an athlete or dancer than the idea of injury. Competition for roles or preparation for exams is always present. Whether one is a student or a professional, the calendar of events in a year of training, or company season, is always tight.
Losing a couple of months can be devastating. According to this study, staying at home nursing an injury is even worse. It seems like that attending the environment of study or work is better. The brains enacts the skills required while observing, and the idea is that skill will therefore, not be lost.
Other scientists (Candace Pert, Bruce Lipton) have been saying for a long time that your brain does not know the difference between imagining doing something and doing it - and as all skills originate in the neural pathways - it seems best to continue using them, even if you are sitting in a cast.
It will be interesting to watch developments in these studies in better rehabilitation from ballet and sports injuries.
In the meantime, prevent! There is a wealth of information available on functional anatomy and pre-pointe training that is oriented to injury prevention.
To prevent ballet injuries, The Perfect Pointe Book is a good place to start.