Introducing the 2020 iConference Student Research Award Recipients (Part 2)

This is the second of two blog posts introducing the six recipients of the 2020 iConference Student Research Award. Make sure you check out Part 1 to see the three previously introduced awardees.


Julie Ferrell-Olson

The use of socks in contemporary dance class has recently become more prevalent, and at the time of data collection there were no studies on what this new practice might mean for dancer’s injury-risk. My research aimed to determine if socks, compared to barefoot, cause compensatory biomechanical changes during a stag jump, and what those changes may mean for a dancer’s injury-risk and performance ability. Looking at barefoot, thin cotton socks, and thick wool socks with 3D motion capture, we found that the dancers were significantly compensating their technique while wearing socks, evidenced by an increase in their anterior pelvic tilt, decreased stride length, decreased jump height and flight time, and decreased knee stiffness when landing. These changes were largely due to the risk of slipping, and reflect a protective gait adapted by subjects in other studies to prevent falls: shifting the center of mass forward and taking smaller steps.

The student research award means so much to me as I begin my career in dance science, and I am honored to be recognized by the dance medicine and science community. As I look towards my next steps, this award helps offset the costs of applying for further education in a doctoral program and bolsters my confidence as a researcher.



Yanan Dang

Recent systematic reviews have mainly been focused on injury incidence and etiology, but this review aims to examine rehabilitation studies of injured dancers. Inclusion criteria included English or Chinese language, between 1979 and 2019, rehabilitation interventions for injured dancers of all dance genres and levels. A total of 111 studies met the inclusion criteria from an initial 4013 publications. The accepted studies involved 1262 injured dancers which included 67 case reports, 33 case series and 11 cohort studies and included conservative (n=48), surgical (n=53) and combined (n=10). The main focus was the ankle (37 studies) and foot (32 studies), reporting Posterior Ankle Impingement Syndrome (65%) and foot stress fractures (31%). 50% of case reports and 55% of case series were excellent or good and the cohort studies scored between II and III. The average return to dance time was 20.87 weeks. There was a low level of evidence and little replication within the included studies; ~70% did not define injury or the degree of injury. Surgical interventions had a longer return to dance time than conservative treatment. In summary, there is a need for more high-quality detailed studies on conservative rehabilitation interventions for injured dancers.

It is the first international award I achieved from IADMS, and I appreciated my Supervisory Team (Matthew Wyon Ph.D., Yiannis Koutedakis Ph.D., and Ruoling Chen Ph.D.) so much. This award means a big surprise and great encouragement for my study in this challenging period. It is a professional recognition to the first year of my Ph.D. study. This award brings me the confidence to complete more high-quality studies, which will push me to set a higher demand for myself and help me find more partners in my subsequent studies. The fund could also support my next international research.


Benjamin Hickman

The aim of this research was to explore how different dance genres impact pain in populations experiencing chronic pain. We found that the most studied populations included those with Fibromyalgia, generalised chronic pain and musculoskeletal conditions, of which 83.3% were women. The most common dances were aerobic dance, Biodanza and Dance Movement Therapy, averaging 70 minutes, twice per week over 14 weeks. Overall, 77% of studies reported reduced pain symptoms or improved coping. Those with chronic primary pain or chronic secondary musculoskeletal pain showed improvement in 93% and 70% of studies respectively. Qualitative studies noted themes of pain acceptance, increased understanding of the body, improved mental and emotional wellbeing, regaining control, independence and freedom and a motivation for movement. Although this review showed promising results for using dance for pain management in those experiencing chronic pain, a variety of conditions, dances and pain measures make it difficult to determine a true cause and effect. This is the gap that I and the team at the University of Sydney will be researching, including designing a dance intervention for those with diagnosed chronic pain. This will focus on how dance impacts the biological, psychological and social aspects of an individual’s pain experience.

Receiving this award was a surprise and a beautiful reminder that through this recognition the research we do is important and has the potential to change the lives of those living with chronic pain. I hope the field of ‘dance for health’ grows and allows those experiencing health issues to connect to dance as a way to improve their quality of life. Receiving this award will allow me to balance work and research commitments. Importantly, it will assist in carrying out the next stages of research as we perform interviews and design a dance intervention for individuals with chronic pain.


Make sure you check our previous blog post which introduced the first three awardees of the Student Research Award 2020.