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Building the Complete Dancer: Optimising Health, Performance and Longevity in Irish Dance


Researchers Involved:

Dr. Roisin Cahalan

PhD, BBS, Grad Dip Comp, BSc, MA

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Dr. Kieran O'Sullivan

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Sustainable Development Goals

  • 03 Good Health and Wellbeing

Summary of the impact:

Irish dance is amongst Ireland’s most successful cultural exports, with current figures showing over 10,000 qualified Irish dancing teachers operating in thousands of schools in over 30 countries internationally. The decades since Riverdance, the critically acclaimed Irish music and dance stage show, have seen monumental developments in the complexity of Irish dance. This has precipitated markedly increased injury incidence, comparable to that in ballet and contemporary dance. The biopsychosocial benefits of dancing have long been established, across genres and in both elite and nonelite cohorts. However, levels of pain and injury can be significant in elite dancers. Studies in Irish dance have recorded injury rates of 82.1% in adult elite cohorts over the previous year which compares to rates investigated Irish professional, elite and student Irish dancers across the lifespan.

The decades since Riverdance have seen monumental developments in the complexity of Irish dance.

Dr Roisin Cahalan is the world’s leading researcher in Irish dance injury having investigated Irish professional, elite and student Irish dancers across the lifespan. Former lead dancer with Riverdance, she is a physiotherapist and experienced Irish dance clinician. With her collaborators, she has raised the profile of Irish dance medicine internationally, informed clinical practice, and improved the health and performance of Irish dancers. She is currently advising Irish dance governing organisations regarding dancer health guidelines.

References to the research

Inability to perform due to musculoskeletal pain and injury in elite adult Irish dancers: a prospective investigation of contributing factors.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2015.03.355

Authors: Cahalan, R., O’Sullivan P., Purtill H., Bargary N., Ni Bhriain O., O’Sullivan, K


Pain and injury in elite adolescent Irish dancers: A cross-sectional study.

https://doi. org/10.12678/1089-313X.22.2.91

Authors: Cahalan, R., N. Bargary, and K. O’Sullivan


Dance exposure, wellbeing and injury in collegiate Irish and contemporary dancers: A prospective study.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2018.09.006

Authors: Cahalan, R., Kearney P., Ni Bhriain O., Redding E., Quin E., McLaughlin LC., O’Sullivan K.


Injury in professional Irish dancers.

https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.17.4.150

Authors: Cahalan, R. and K. O’Sullivan


Biopsychosocial Characteristics of Contemporary and Irish University Level Student Dancers A Pilot Study

https://doi. org/10.12678/1089-313X.23.2.63

Authors: Cahalan, R., Comber L., Gaire D., Quin E., Redding, E., Ni Bhriain O., O’Sullivan K.


Foot and ankle pain and injuries in elite adult Irish dancers.

https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2014.4041

Authors: Cahalan, R., Purtill, H., O’Sullivan, P., O’Sullivan, K.


Dietary Intake, Body Composition and Nutrition Knowledge of Irish Dancers

https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313x.24.3.105

Authors: Challis, J, Cahalan R, Jakeman P, Ni Bhriain O., Cronin, L., Reeves, S.


Biopsychosocial Factors Associated with Foot and Ankle Pain and Injury in Irish Dance.

https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2017.2018

Authors: Cahalan, R., H. Purtill, and K. O’Sullivan


Dance exposure, general health, sleep and injury in elite adolescent Irish dancers: A prospective study

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2019.09.008

Authors: Cahalan, R., N. Bargary, and K. O’Sullivan


A cross-sectional study of elite adult irish dancers: biopsychosocial traits, pain, and injury.

https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.19.1.31

Authors: Cahalan, R., Purthill, H., O’Sullivan, P., O’Sullivan, K.


The collegiate Irish dancer’s experience of injury: A qualitative study.

https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2020.1001

Authors: Higginbotham O, C.R.


Biopsychosocial Factors Associated with Foot and Ankle Pain and Injury in Irish Dance.

https://doi.org/10.21091/mppa.2017.2018

Authors: Cahalan, R., H. Purtill, and K. O’Sullivan


Biopsychosocial characteristics of contemporary and Irish university-level student dancers: A pilot study.

https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.23.2.63

Authors: Cahalan, R., Comber, L., Gaire, D., Quin, E., Redding, E., Ni Bhriain, O., O’Sullivan, K.