By Lesley Robinson and Sarah Whyte.
Images of dancers overstretching their legs and hips have flooded Instagram and YouTube, in positions called the “scorpion” and “over split leg mount”, which forces the leg behind the head.
Dance physiotherapist Lisa Howell urged dancers not to copy pictures and videos shared online, after seeing a spike in hip and back injuries in dancers aged 11 to 14.
She said children were pushing their bodies beyond their physical limits.
“Now we’re seeing labral tears (tear in hip joint) and issues in their back in 11 and 12-year-olds, which is very disconcerting because while they’re doing these moves to make themselves better dancers, they are often actually ruling themselves out of a professional career because they are getting injuries so young,” Ms Howell said.
The trend has meant inexperienced dancers are trying to imitate complicated gymnastic moves performed by highly-trained gymnastics.
“The biggest issue we have now is that people are taking moves from rhythmic gymnastics and trying to insert them into dance and trying to do this in a very, very quick way as a one stop shop, rather than looking at all of the detailed training that has to go in before any of those tricks are actually attempted,” he said.
“If they look like they are unsafe they probably are.
“If you cringe then it probably is cringe worthy.”
The risk of injury is also growing as the popularity of dance surges.
It is now more popular than any sport in Australia, except for swimming, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Dancers sharing the images are often from the United States and Australia, and have hundreds of thousands of followers online.
Young dancers are also publishing "how to" videos on YouTube, showing how to do advanced gymnastics stretching.
Marko Panzic, who runs the prestigious Dream Dance Company, said the social media trend was leading towards a "dangerous side of dance".
"It just makes me go ouch," he said.
"It's not something that I look at and go 'Wow. That's amazing'."
Two promising Australian dancers have spoken out against the growing trend, saying their injuries could have been avoided if they did not push themselves into such extreme positions.
"Those pictures on Instagram, they physically make me ill because I know that that's not what your body should be able to do," 18-year-old Aaron Matheson said.
Aaron was practicing a scorpion, or a back mount, at home when he first injured himself seven years ago.
"I just kept trying every day I got home after dancing and eventually I finally got it, but I also felt my back twinge when I did it and I just had to collapse to the ground and just wait until the pain was gone," Aaron said.
He is now being treated for a stress fracture.
Charlotte Connors, 17, from Newcastle, injured herself trying to copy a YouTube video at home.
"The carpet was underneath me and slipped underneath me and I dislocated my coccyx, my tailbone," she said.
Both dancers wish they had known what kind of long-term damage could be ahead of them, before attempting extreme overstretching.
"It can either make you or break you as a dancer," Aaron said.
"If you're going to push yourself so far while you're young, you're not going to have a future when you're older.
"And kids need to learn that now, sooner than later."
Charlotte said the growing popularity of copying dancers online was often done by children who did not have adequate dance training.
"If you feel pain stop, because the pain is the brain's message; please stop what you're doing because it's wrong," she said.