Some of the most common injuries in ballet are ankle sprains, jumper’s knee syndrome, and Achilles tendonitis.
Knowing the risks of these injuries is an important part of staying healthy and safe during your dance classes.
If you or someone you know has suffered an injury, it’s important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Ankle sprains and Other Common Injuries Risk to Ballet Dancers
Ballet dancers can experience injuries involving their foot and ankle. These injuries can be either acute or chronic.
They generally occur as a result of the repetitive impact loading experienced by a dancer’s feet on the dance floor. This makes them a very common injury in ballet.
Minor sprains typically heal on their own, but they may require treatment.
Although ligaments can recover from a small tear or over-stretching, a sprained ankle may need several weeks of rest before it reaches full healing.
Severe cases may require extended immobilization or surgery.
Overuse of the ankle can cause patellofemoral pain syndrome. This can cause softening of the cartilage behind the kneecap and may cause a dull ache.
Overuse of the ankle can also lead to stress fractures and knee sprains. When dancing en pointe, the ankle may turn inward and increase the risk of an ankle sprain.
Inflammation of the flexor hallucis and Achilles tendons can also result in an ankle sprain.
Besides ankle sprains, other common injuries in dancers include tendinitis of the ankle. This inflammation affects the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones.
It can be caused by overuse or traumatic injury. Symptoms of tendinitis of the ankle can be pain, swelling, and creptus.
Early recognition of symptoms is vital for treating this condition. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop your activity and call a physiotherapist as soon as possible.
Early treatment can prevent long-term problems from developing.
Snapping hip syndrome
Snapping hip syndrome is very common among ballet dancers and can be very difficult to treat.
Symptoms of this condition may include pain, swelling, and stiffness in the hip joint.
Treatment for this condition may involve physical therapy. During physical therapy, a trained professional will ask you questions about your current physical condition and recommend a treatment plan.
This physical therapy will include exercises that help you maintain good posture and decrease pain down your leg.
Snapping hip syndrome is caused by abnormal tissue growth in the hip joint. This condition affects more than just ballet dancers.
The condition is so common in this physical activity that doctors refer to it as Dancer’s Hip.
Dancers are constantly bending at the hips, trying to perfect each move and sequence. This type of inflammation can lead to chronic pain and disability.
According to orthopedic hip specialist Dr. Benedict Nwachukwu, nearly one in six ballet dancers will experience snapping hip syndrome at some point in their careers.
When repeated, the repetitive snapping can cause pain in the hip joint and inflammation of the bursa, which is located at the front of the hip joint.
It can also lead to other pain, limiting dancers’ abilities. The symptoms of this syndrome can vary depending on the type of movement.
A diagnosis of snapping hip syndrome is essential to ensuring a successful treatment plan. The first step in treatment is rest.
The next step is a comprehensive assessment by a trained physiotherapist. The physiotherapist will identify the underlying causes of the snapping.
This will help the physiotherapist determine what exercises should be performed to correct the problem. The physiotherapist will also assess your technique.
Jumper’s knee syndrome
Jumper’s knee syndrome, also known as patellar tendonitis, affects the patellar tendon, the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin bone.
The constant pressure on this tendon leads to inflammation and sometimes tears. As a result, the knee can become painful upon landing and squatting.
The condition usually begins in early adolescence or early adulthood and can be treated with ice therapy and low-impact exercises.
While the knee is the strongest joint in the body, it can sustain injuries when overused.
Injuries to the knee can be as simple as a snapping hip or as serious as cartilage tears.
While there are several types of knee injuries, ballet dancers are most often affected by tears of the meniscus, which sits under the kneecap.
Performing jumps in an incorrect or over-twisted position can damage the meniscus. Symptoms of meniscus tears include pain when extending the knee, as well as pain when landing.
There are two main causes of jumper’s knee syndrome. One is an imbalance in muscle strength.
A strong quadriceps muscle can pull the patella up and straight, while a weak one can cause the patella to droop.
This causes pain and can compromise a dancer’s performance. Fortunately, the jumper’s knee is not a permanent condition and can be treated successfully with physiotherapy.
Symptoms of jumper’s knee syndrome develop gradually, over time. In the early stages, pain in the knee will be felt during class, and the kneecap can swell.
If left untreated, the condition can lead to arthritis.
Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon in the back of the ankle.
This tendon is active during certain ballet movements, including the relieve and battements, and it is more likely to occur in dancers with improper technique or overuse of the area.
Some common symptoms include pain on the back of the ankle, pain in the heel, and tightness in the area.
If the pain persists after a few days, seek medical advice.
The most common cause of Achilles tendonitis is overuse, although a variety of factors can contribute.
For example, tight pointe shoes can restrict the tendon’s movement, which can aggravate the condition.
Tight calves are also known to increase the risk of Achilles tendonitis.
The feet and ankles are heavily used in ballet. This constant support causes strain on the tendons and ligaments of the ankle.
This can lead to sprained ankles. The Achilles tendon, which runs from the back of the heel to the calf, can become inflamed as a result of repeated stress.
This is a painful condition, and can affect the dancer’s ability to perform ballet techniques.
Dancers suffering from Achilles tendonitis should seek treatment and physical therapy.
A doctor can also perform a gait analysis to assess the level of hyperpronation in the dancer’s foot.
As a result, the injury can be avoided by correcting the foot’s posture. Treatment for Achilles tendonitis depends on the exact cause.
Conservative treatment may include rest and ice, while noninvasive procedures may include local injections or thermotherapy.
In some cases, surgical interventions are used.
Trigger toe injury
A trigger toe injury is a common ballet condition, and it can put a dancer’s career on hold if left untreated.
Fortunately, there are treatments available that can reduce the symptoms and even prevent the condition in some cases.
Proper footwear, with a deep toe box and soft leather uppers, is critical for prevention. In more severe cases, customized shoes may be needed.
Suitable hosiery and felt padding for the toes may also help reduce pressure. Visiting a podiatrist for a custom mold may also help.
Footcare is also important, including routine foot care and specific exercises to help prevent ulceration and corns.
Treatment for a trigger toe injury can vary from case to case, but an early diagnosis will increase the chance of recovery.
Conservative treatment may include ice and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy may also be recommended. Physical therapy exercises, such as slow stretches, may help the injured foot return to normal activity.
Trigger toe pain is usually caused by a weakened tendon. Inflammation of the trigger toe tendon can make it difficult for a dancer to dance en pointe and may lead to a clicking or popping sensation.
Ballet dancers may also feel difficulty in flexing their big toe.
Trigger toe injury can also be the result of faulty technique. The tendon leading to the big toe may become stuck outside of the tendon canal, causing pain and swelling.
This injury is most painful when the toe is pointed or contracted eccentrically.