By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Dance in all forms and genres requires a lot of strength and flexibility. The principles of dedication, consistency, and discipline apply to dancers and athletes alike. Among many others, ballet is one of the most immaculate and graceful forms of dancing. This means that ballet dancers go through a lot of lessons, training, and practice to be able to deliver a flawless performance.
Dance, especially ballet, is physically demanding just like any sport. Here are some of the most common injuries ballet dancers are prone to:
When we think of ballet, the first image that comes to mind for most of us is a pose where a ballet dancer’s feet are completely extended and the ankle joints are carrying all of their body weight– that is called the pointe technique. Along with the point technique, there is a lot of footwork in ballet, like spinning, hopping, and running, putting them at risk of spraining their ankles.
Snapping Hip Syndrome (SHS)
When a ballet dancer is suffering from SHS, there is an audible snapping whenever there is movement on the hip joint caused by a tight muscle or tendon moving over a bony structure in the hip. Ballet dancers are prone to SHS due to repetitive hip flexion and extension, hip abduction (lifting of legs to the side), and external rotation (outward rotation of the thighs and knees).
Dancer’s heel (Posterior impingement syndrome)
Due to repetitive stress on the tendons at the back of the ankle, the tissue becomes compressed. The inflammation and pinching causes it to be painful. Overstraining when pointing the foot and forcing the heel on the floor are the most common causes of impingement for ballet dancers.
Hallux rigidus (Stiff big toe)
We’ve talked about the pointe technique where the ankle carrying the weight of the dancer causes ankle sprains. This foot injury is often caused by another ballet technique called demi-pointe. In a demi-pointe pose, the ball of the foot supports the body weight putting stress on the toe joints. Overuse and repetitive strain on the big toe (hallux) stiffens the joint at its base, causing pain and minimizes the range of motion.
Lumbar stress fractures
Although ballet mainly requires footwork for routines, repetitive back arching and extension and hopping can cause lower back issues. Lumbar stress fractures are characterized by pain that is triggered by physical activity and does not go away even when the body is at rest.
Tips for training and improving technique:
Consider cross-training exercises. A handful of injuries sustained in ballet are caused by overuse. Cross-training enables dancers to mix up workouts to avoid overusing certain muscles while building strength and endurance in all parts of the body.
Take as much time needed to warm up and condition the muscles, especially the feet. Muscles that are tight due to lack of warm-up are the most susceptible to injuries. Doing a proper warm-up also reduces muscle soreness and increases agility.
Schedule regular consultations with a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help you recover after an injury, but they can also guide athletes and dancers through exercise and stretch routines that improve flexibility and range of motion to help prevent injuries from ever occurring.
To schedule a visit or if you suspect an injury, book an appointment with one of the experienced clinicians at the Sport Manitoba Clinic.