They dazzle audiences with their acrobatic artistry, physical strength, graceful movement and boundless energy. Add to that creative choreography, spectacular stage design and motivating music and you've set the scene for some of today's most prolific performing arts productions. Like professional athletes, performing artists must also keep their finely-tuned bodies in peak condition and injury-free. That's why certified athletic trainers, who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses, are increasingly being hired by performing arts companies to work with performers to achieve their physical best.

"Preventing and treating injuries in the performing arts takes the same care that's been provided to professional and collegiate sports teams for decades," said National Athletic Trainers' Association President Chuck Kimmel, ATC. "In fact, for many years, world-renowned entertainment venues and performing arts groups such as Celine Dion Productions, Radio City Rockettes and Le Rêve, use athletic training programs to keep their performers in top condition. NATA also just completed its first workshop to specifically train athletic trainers in the specialized needs of the performing artist."

For more than four years, Tracey Weibel, MS, LAT, ATC, has led the rehabilitation and prevention of injuries and emergency care for Celine Dion and her cast of 50 dancers for CDA Productions in Las Vegas. "My biggest challenge is to get the entire cast, and most importantly Celine, on stage performing at their best. When it comes to dancers, I usually begin my treatment by educating them about anatomy, physiology, the mechanisms of injury and biomechanics, so they can learn to prevent injuries before they occur."

Tracey has been a tremendous help to me," said Celine Dion. "In addition to working with me on training and conditioning, she's always there in times of need to monitor my physical condition, administer first aid, and to make sure that I'm in the right shape to perform at my peak."

Steve McCauley, ATC, LAT, CSCS, heads Health Services for Le Rêve Wynn Las Vegas and its Le Rêve production, a program that features aerial acrobatics, provocative choreography and artistic athleticism. He notes key similarities between professional athletes and performers: "The motivations that drive a baseball or football player are the same motivations that drive a performing athlete. That's why our treatments and actions vary only with respect to keeping them in the game - or in our case, the show."

"Steve provides us with excellent training and conditioning exercises, while keeping in mind the acrobatic skills that the performer must accomplish, says Christopher Phi, who has been with the company since April 2005. He encourages me to improve my overall fitness, and as a result my stamina has increased and my performances are more consistent."

Because certified athletic trainers are more traditionally seen on athletic fields, rather than performing arts venues, there has been a learning curve among performing artists. "By far the greatest challenge is educating people about our role in the performing arts setting," McCauley said, "but once prevention and treatment routines begin, performers tend to wonder why all production companies don't automatically have athletic trainers on staff."

Elaine Winslow-Redmond, MS, ATC, is responsible for the prevention, treatment and overall management of injury for the Radio City Rockettes and other performers during the Radio City Christmas Spectacular productions both in New York and cities across the country. "The dancers often perform up to 17 shows a week and we are on-site for all rehearsals and performances," said Winslow-Redmond. "Our primary goal is the prevention of injuries. We also work with the dancers to help them improve and maintain their strength, flexibility and general range of motion. Even wearing the oversized soldier hats and lifting other heavy props on stage several times a day requires proper preparation and training to ensure balance and core strength." She has noticed another key benefit derived from her program: "Dancers that are recognized and treated like any other athlete in regard to injury prevention and overall care, can help keep company injury rates low. In fact, since our athletic training program was instituted, there has been a major reduction in workers' compensation claims, which has in turn lowered our overall company costs."

"Performing artists are really performing athletes who have taken their athleticism and physical ability to new heights, literally, and with the appropriate care will continue to excel and delight audiences for years to come," says Kimmel from NATA.

Athletic trainers are represented by the National Athletic Trainers' Association and have a bachelor's or master's degree in athletic training. They are required to maintain certification through the Board of Certification, an organization independent of NATA. Athletic trainers differ from personal trainers who focus on fitness and conditioning and have no educational or certification requirements.


About the NATA:

Certified athletic trainers are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. NATA advocates for equal access to athletic trainers for athletes and patients of all ages, and supports H.R. 1846. NATA.

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