Safety concerns are no reason to swear off the pole altogether, instructors say.
Like other acrobatic sports such as gymnastics or competitive cheerleading, dancers need to work up to more difficult moves slowly to pole dance safely, said Wendy Traskos, 39, who owns NY Pole Dancing, a studio in New York City.
"We have a strong structure of progressed levels of training in our studio with an emphasis on building strength and timing," Traskos said.
Beginner classes at her studios in New York and Michigan only allow students to spin and climb on the pole.
Inverts, moves where you suspend yourself upside down, are not attempted until more advanced classes, and crash mats are put down for students attempting such moves for the first time, she said. Most students also are spotted by instructors when attempting more difficult moves.
For those practicing at home or without spotters, other safety precautions can ward off injuries, Hellquist said.
"Always attempt inverts from the ground first," she said. "If you're going to discover that you can't actually hold yourself upside down, you definitely want to discover that one inch from the ground rather than five feet up."
Once you're actually holding yourself upside down, keep your head tucked into your chest, she added, so that if you do slip, you're less likely to hurt your neck.
Patience and safety go hand-in-hand for this sport, instructors said. Jumping into more difficult moves without the proper training, strength, focus and precautions is a recipe for disaster.
"It's a beautiful, challenging acrobatic art form," Hellquist said. "I'd love to see pole acrobatics embraced by people of all gender identities, ages and body types. One of the things that will make that possible is to make sure it's taught in a safe, responsible way."