Zumba injuries: Why the road to good health could hurt you and how to stay safe

Zumba injuries: Why the road to good health could hurt you and how to stay safe

CREATED Feb 25, 2013

Reporter: Maggie Vespa

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - In today's body-conscious culture... it seems people will try anything to slim down and tone up.

The latest fitness craze to sweep the nation?  
It's called "Zumba".
In case you've been living under an aerobic rock, Zumba is a fast-paced, high-intensity workout, set to latin music.
But before you lace up your dancing shoes, be warned.  Experts say the road good health could hurt you.
Whether it's the music, the moves, or the mouth on the instructor, something about Zumba has people hooked.
9OYS reporter Maggie Vespa asked participants, "What do you like about it?"
"It's just... it's music," said one participant.  "All it is, you're just dancing to different kinds of music.  Salsa, Mirengue, Cumbias."
"It's a little bit of hip hop, a little bit of latin," said another.
"It's not like any other aerobics.  It makes you move," said a third.
And this Wednesday night class at the Lohse Family YMCA isn't the only group caught up in the Zumba craze; not by a long shot.
Its creators estimate 12 million people worldwide Zumba away the calories each week, but experts warn, if you're not careful, this latin dance craze could be dangerous.
According to both Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the number of Zumba-related injuries is on the rise and has been for months.     
Common complaints include sprains to the back, knees and ankles.
Vespa sat down with local physical therapist John Woolf to find out if the trend holds true locally.
"I have heard people talking about Zumba injuries, and i think it's interesting," he said.
Woolf is the managing partner of Proactive Physical Therapy in Tucson.
He tells me in many ways, the boost in Zumba boo boos is reminiscent of the same old song and dance.
Vespa asked, "When new workout trends like this, like Tae Bo, like Zumba come around, do you start to see another rush of injuries come in the door?"
"We do," answered Woolf.  "We start to see a shift in our volume a little bit."
And often he says patients' stories are sewn together by one common, overzealous thread.
"They try to accomplish a task or complete a course or a boot camp or something, but yet have not really prepared their body to succeed."
And the best ways to succeed?
Woolf recommends starting slow.  When getting into shape, begin by walking or jogging, and build to a class like zumba.
Also, avoid "injury amnesia."  If you have a back, knee or ankle problem, take proper precautions, including consulting your doctor.
All advice preached at the Y and, perhaps even more, at Curves, where instructors craft their Zumba classes to cater to a lower impact crowd.
"I'm always looking back and making sure that everyone's okay, and that's why I give modifications, making sure that people can do only what they can do," said instructor Danielle DePorter.
And participants appreciate the pre-set limits.  That's because, as Woolf predicted, some are working out into their golden years.
"We do it at our own pace," said participant Jane Szaniszlo. "We don't do a lot of jumping because some of us have false knees and false hips."
Others are working with past injuries.
"I have shoulder injuries and elbow injuries from softball, knee injuries from volleyball, and I broke my foot once playing softball," said Megan Barnett.
So in a nutshell, experts and Zumba-converts alike say the advice is simple.
When looking to step up your work out regimine, know your limits, and know what you're getting into, which, when done right, participants say, is a great workout.
That is, if you can keep the beat.