By Andrea Ginter PT
Dance is a physically demanding art form that requires high levels of strength and flexibility. Throughout their training, dancers practice repetitive movements, often at extremes of range of motion. The most common injuries sustained by dancers are overuse and lower extremity injuries1. Physiotherapy plays an essential role in recovery from these injuries, and also in preventing re-injury.
An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that hold the bones of the ankle together. Often the ligament at the outside of the ankle (anterior talofibular ligament) is injured when the foot is forced inwards, such as when tripping or rolling off of a demi-pointe position. During the moment of injury, usually the muscles along the outside of the ankle contract forcefully in an effort to prevent the foot from being forced inwards. This forceful contraction can cause a strain injury to the muscles themselves, resulting in pain and bruising along the outside of the ankle and foot. Common treatment for ankle sprains includes wearing an ankle stabilizing orthosis (ASO), and performing physiotherapy exercises to re-build lower extremity strength and control. Physiotherapy is essential to help prevent recurrent ankle sprains.
Metatarsals are long bones of the foot. They can develop small hairline cracks known as stress fractures with overuse, such as from repetitive jumping. Typical treatment for stress fractures includes a period of rest, sometimes in an air cast, followed by a gradual return to dance. Physiotherapists can provide pain management, as well as guidance on how to maintain physical fitness safely during the period of rest. After the period of rest, physiotherapists can teach exercises to promote smooth recovery of strength and flexibility for a safe return to dance.
Achilles tendinopathy is a painful irritation of the tendon portion of the calf muscle. Tendons are the part of a muscle that connect it to bone. Achilles tendinopathy often develops with overuse, such as during a sudden increase in dance training. To prevent this condition, it is important to gradually increase dance training, and to ensure calf muscles have good strength and endurance2. Common treatment for Achilles tendinopathy includes modified activity, such as avoiding jumping and modifying depth of grand-pliés. Physiotherapists can provide manual therapy to decrease pain in the achilles tendon. They can also guide a patient through progressive tendon loading exercises to promote tendon healing.
1. Kenny SJ, Whittaker JL, Emery CA. Risk factors for musculoskeletal injury in preprofessional dancers: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2016;50:997-1003.
2. Mulready, S. (2018, April 16). Strength Beats Stretch. Retrieved from https://australianballet.com.au/behind-ballet/strength-beats-stretch