Pole dancing concussion prompts caution about pole exercises
Halifax woman feeling symptoms of head injury sustained last year
A Halifax woman is asking people to be wary of pole dancing style exercises after she suffered a concussion a year ago as she hung upside down from a pole.
"A lot of people think it's just about strippers going in and doing their little dance or whatever, but it's so much more than that," Elizabeth Peirce told CBC's Mainstreet.
"It's like vertical gymnastics."
Peirce was about six months into a beginner's pole dancing class last year when she was encouraged to hang upside down on a pole using only her legs. She suffered a concussion that changed her life.
"I was OK while my hands were on the pole but when I let go, my legs let go at the same time," she said.
"I fell directly down onto my head, about a foot off the pole."
Peirce said she did not lose consciousness but felt a snap in her neck and a lot of pain. Two or three days later, she started to feel the effects. A few weeks later, she experienced the full spectrum of concussion symptoms.
"The first thing I noticed is great noise sensitivity, light sensitivity. I had to wear dark glasses everywhere, even inside. High anxiety, just being in crowded places or even outside my house in some cases was enough to set me off. Dizziness, headaches, fatigue like you wouldn't believe," she said.
"I always say to people, there's no tiredness like concussion tiredness. You can't push through it, you just have to go lie down."
Peirce said her life has not been the same since that day.
'Everything became a struggle'
"I'm still feeling [the symptoms] a year in and this is quite common, I've discovered," she said.
"Everything became a struggle. I can't even explain. I've struggled with depression since then because my life has just been so curtailed compared to what it was before."
Peirce is now blogging about her experience and pole fitness safety.
"I felt that having gathered all this information and having gone through all these experiences, I didn't want it all to be for nothing. I wanted the anniversary of my injury to have some positive spin for somebody else, perhaps. And I also wanted to raise awareness about pole fitness and safety because I did not have a mat coming down straight on my head and landed on a hardwood floor," she said.
"Do you ever see a gymnast performing gymnastic routines without a mat? Never."
Peirce said that's a safety feature that should be in place.
The Canadian Pole Fitness Association said it's trying to educate clients as well as instructors on what to look for when they go to a pole fitness class.
"We try and do our best to help educate students when they're walking in or even when they're choosing a pole fitness studio to look for all of these things. They need to ask to see if their instructors are certified and are they current? They need to look and see if there's crash mats," said Aryn Savard, a board member with the association.
"We want to educate them that when it's time to do inversions, you need to make sure that there's a crash mat present. Somebody should be spotting you 100 per cent of the time when you're learning new skills."