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Physical Therapy & The 16 Most Common Dance Injuries

The physical demands of ballet are very similar to that of many high level athletic sports, and although dancers are artists and not athletes, the athletic demands of dance choreography place the dancer at risk for injuries. These injuries in dancers can occur in every part of the body, but the majority of them occur in the lower extremities, particularly in the feet and ankles. This is due to the fact that the art requires the foot and ankle to move into extreme positions and to handle hours of repetitive impact loading on a relatively unyielding surface. Unlike most athletes who wear shoes specifically designed to stabilize the foot and absorb shock, ballet dancers wear only a thin slipper or toe shoe, both of which do not adequately absorb the forces placed on the foot. Factors that contribute to pushing the foot and ankle into positions that are “too extreme” and failure to effectively absorb shock in the lower extremity include anatomical variation, improper technique, muscle imbalances, and in some cases, fatigue. The following is a list of some common injuries sustained by ballet dancers that can be treated with physical therapy:

Dancer’s Fracture: Fracture of the 5th Metatarsal (outside of foot)

Sesamoiditis: Inflammation of the tendon that runs between the two sesamoid bones

Hallux Valgus/Bunion: Lateral deviation of the first proximal phalanx (big toe)

Hallux Rigidus (or Limitus): Limited motion at the 1st MTP joint, causing impingement of the dorsal first metatarsal head on the proximal phalanx in full demi-pointe

Achilles Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendon that connects the gastroc/soleus (calf muscles) to the calcaneus (heel bone)

Dancer’s Heel: Posterior Impingement Syndrome – compression of the soft tissues in the back of the ankle in demi-pointe caused by a bony formation in the posterior calcaneus (heel bone)

Anterior Impingement Syndrome: Compression of the soft tissues in the front of the ankle between the tibia (shin bone) and the talus (ankle bone) during a plié

Lateral Ankle Sprain: Sprain of the ligaments in the lateral (outside) of the ankle

Shin Splints: Irritation of either the periosteum of the tibia (lining of the shin bone) or the muscles and tendons in that area

Stress Fracture: Crack in the any bone that occurs with repetitive loading when muscles are fatigued

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Break down of cartilage between the patella (knee cap) and the femur (thigh bone)

Meniscus Tear: Tear of the cartilage that cushions the knee between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone)

Snapping Hip Syndrome: Inflammation of the one of the bursas (fluid filled sacks) that sit between the muscles and bone as a result of the muscles snapping over the bone

Lumbar Facet Joint Dysfunction and Muscle Spasms: Irritation of the joints between the vertebrae in the lower spine and tightening of the muscles that run along both sides of the spine

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Shoulder Impingement: RCT is inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the top of the humeral head as a result of SI, which is the pinching of the tendon (and other soft tissue structures) between the humeral head and the acromion process

Cervical Facet Joint Dysfunction: Irritation of the joints between the vertebrae in the upper spine

If you or anyone you know is experiencing injuries like these, go to your doctor and obtain a physical therapy referral, then call 619-564-7120 to schedule your initial evaluation.

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