Dancing to a different tune in return to sport measures

Former Team GB Rhythmic Gymnastic star and dancer Hannah Martin during a training session at Ouse Valley Viaduct, June 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Dancers are a very elite and specialized kind of athlete. While considered an art form, dance requires a significant amount of athleticism. As such, dancers are prone to athletic injuries, just like other athletes. However, without a personal background in dance, clinicians may be left scratching their heads to determine when dancers are ready to return to their sport.

Standardized testing helps clinicians determine progress in patients after an injury. Such testing also establishes benchmarks for a safe return to sport. In 1999, researchers developed the Dance Functional Outcome System (DFOS) to measure functionality and performance in dancers(1). Recently, researchers from centers in the United States and Brazil conducted tests of the reliability, validity, and responsiveness of this functional outcome measure(2).

The DFOS is a 14-item self-administered questionnaire for dancers who perform ballet or modern dance and have suffered an injury to their low back, legs, or feet. The questions ask the dancer to rate their ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) and specific dance maneuvers. The test also includes one self-perception question asking dancers to rate their overall performance. The scale is available as a free download and requires no previous training to administer. Dancers complete the survey in around 10 to 15 minutes.

Researchers compared the DFOS with the SF-36, a widely used and robust self-administered questionnaire. In doing so, they found that the DFOS scored high in the areas of test-retest reliability, internal consistency, and construct validity in a population of elite or pre-professional dancers over the age of 18. Thus, the DFOS is a valid tool to use when assessing progress and function in adult ballet and modern dancers. While not standardized for this population, the DFOS may also have applications in the areas of aerial and rhythmic gymnastics, ice-skating, and competitive-team dance.


  1. Orthop Sports Phys Ther 29(1):A-20, 1999
  2. 2019 Feb;49(2):64-79
Share this
Follow us