Three days before she was supposed to star as Mary Poppins in her sorority’s performance at Greek Skit, Olivia Skoglund landed herself in the emergency room until 4 a.m. with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, had to find a new lead in a matter of days. In preparation for Skit, chapters typically start practicing one month in advance, and members rehearse for hours every night, five days a week.
Male and female professionally trained dancers have a 76 percent chance of getting injured over the course of a year, according to a study of 266 college-aged dancers published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Skit participants aren’t required to have a dance background.
Hashini Weerasekera, a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, needed immediate surgery after a piece of bone became dislocated and cut into the ligament in her foot when she was asked to do a backflip during rehearsal.
“I don’t do gymnastics or anything, but they said, ‘It’s fine, we’ve done it before,’” said Weerasekera, who was rehearsing to be a background dancer in Kappa Alpha Theta’s performance of Candy Land. “I learned that if you feel like you’re not capable of something, it’s OK to say no.”
Students are asked to sign a waiver before participating in Skit because it’s an official, annual event on campus. The presidents of each sorority and fraternity are also expected to structure their acts in a safe way, said Allan Brooks, director of Risk Management at Chapman.
“We encourage (students) to report (injuries) using the incident reporting form found on the Risk Management website. We will then investigate to see if there were any unsafe practices that might need to be further considered for future events,” Brooks said.
Pam Gibbons, Chapman’s director of athletic training and sports medicine, agrees that knowing your physical capabilities is important for both professional and amateur dancers.
“(With) some stuff, it’s OK to push through, and other things, it’s a really, really bad idea to push through,” Gibbons said. “You need to know what your limitations are with a particular injury.”
Weerasekera said she never felt pressured to perform, but she was disappointed that she couldn’t participate in the event.
“(My sorority sisters and I) would’ve been a little closer if I had ended up performing in Skit, but I definitely realized that my sisters are there for me,” she said. “I will try out next year, but no backflip.”
Though both Skoglund and Weerasekera couldn’t perform on skit night, their sororities found ways to keep them included – at the end of Alpha Gamma Delta’s performance, Skoglund entered the stage from the side and threw her crutch in the air.
All of Chapman’s sororities and eight out of 10 fraternities participated in the annual Greek Skit competition April 27 and 28.