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What Are Common Injuries for Ballet Dancers?
What Are Common Injuries for Ballet Dancers?

While ballet is renowned for its beauty and grace, it’s an incredibly physically demanding practice beneath the surface. Dancers may appear effortlessly light to the audience, but in reality, each movement demands precision, strength and flexibility.

The repetitive nature of the art form and the immense strain placed on specific parts of the body make ballet injuries commonplace. The emphasis on maintaining a particular aesthetic, such as the turnout of feet and legs, can lead to overuse injuries. In the same way, the demand for extreme flexibility and the high-impact nature of jumps can result in sprains, fractures, and chronic issues.

Like athletes, dancers can also push their bodies to the limits of physical performance. If you’re dedicated to this art form, being aware of the following ballet injuries and partnering with the right experts can help you stay in the best possible condition to render memorable performances.

  1. Stress Fractures

    Ballet involves repetitive, high-impact movements such as jumping, landing from leaps, and pointe work. These activities stress the feet and ankles repetitively, exacerbating muscle fatigue. When these overworked muscles can no longer absorb the shock, the stress impacts the bones and creates a tiny crack known as a stress fracture.

    For ballet dancers, stress fractures often occur in the foot and lower leg (the tibia, metatarsals and navicular bones). Preventing these painful fractures entails listening to the body, ensuring proper nutrition, maintaining strength and flexibility and using the correct form.

  2. Sprained Ankles

    Ankle sprains happen when the ligaments supporting the ankle stretch beyond their limits and, in severe cases, tear.

    For ballet dancers, the risk of sprains escalates due to their unique movement demands. Impeccable technique is crucial to execute pointe work, jumps and quick directional changes safely. Otherwise, the ankle may twist or roll when landing from a jump or pivoting during turns, leading to an overstretched ligament.

    It’s also worth noting that long-term overuse of the ankle can result in ankle arthritis. This refers to the breakdown of the ankle joint’s cartilage and protective tissues, leading to pain and inflammation.

  3. Achilles Tendinitis

    The Achilles tendon, the body’s longest and strongest tendon, attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. In ballet, this tendon often bears a significant load as dancers point their toes and leap gracefully through the air.

    Movements such as relevés and sautés place repeated stress on the Achilles tendon. When these actions are performed with excessive intensity or without proper form, the risk of inflammation increases.

    Other practices that can exacerbate the strain on the Achilles include:

    • Dancing without adequate warm-up
    • Wearing poorly fitting shoes that fail to support the feet appropriately
    • Suddenly increasing training intensity or duration without proper conditioning
    • Dancing on surfaces that do not absorb shock well
  4. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

    Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as “dancer’s knee,” involves discomfort around the kneecap (patella) and the front part of the thigh bone (femur) it glides over.

    Beneath the patella is a layer of cartilage that provides cushion and a smooth surface for the joint to move on. However, the repeated bending and extending of the knee during ballet can lead to increased pressure between the patella and femur, irritating the cartilage and causing pain. Specifically, repeated pliés (knee bends) and jetés (large jumps) can exacerbate stress on the knee joint.

    Dancers with PFPS typically experience a dull, aching pain around the kneecap. This becomes particularly noticeable when climbing stairs, squatting, or sitting with the knee bent for long periods. There might also be a grinding or popping sensation when moving the knee.

  5. Snapping Hip Syndrome

    The range of movements requiring extreme flexibility, strength and precision can also push a ballet dancer’s hips to the limits of their range of motion. Repetitive and forceful movements, such as grand battements or developpés, can cause the tendons and muscles around the hip to become inflamed or tight, increasing the risk of snapping hip syndrome.

    Also known as dancer’s hip, this is a condition where dancers literally feel a snapping sensation or hear a popping sound in their hip while performing certain movements. This noise results from a tight muscle or tendon moving over a bony ridge in the hip joint.

    Aside from the audible snap, dancers with this condition may experience pain and feel the hip “catching” during movement. The pain is typically felt at the front or outside of the hip and can be sharp during certain activities or a dull ache after substantial rest.

  6. Plantar Fasciitis

    The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. It plays the crucial role of supporting the arch of the foot and absorbing the shock of everyday movements.

    The plantar fascia is used a lot during ballet. Pointe work and jumps require immense strength and flexibility, which can push this tissue to its limits. When you rise onto the tip of your toes, the tension through the arch increases significantly, stretching the plantar fascia. Wearing poorly fitted pointe shoes, technique errors and lack of conditioning can exacerbate the risk of this injury.

Look Forward to a Long and Successful Dance Career With Dr. Benjamin Domb

Ballet requires immense strength, flexibility, stamina and coordination. Dancers frequently execute complex jumps, pirouettes and rigorous routines that demand not only technical skill but also substantial physical power and endurance. Their muscles must sustain prolonged, intense contractions, and their joints endure significant strain with every leap, bend and twist, making ballet injuries common.

If you recently sustained an injury while practicing the art form you love, take comfort in knowing there are experts ready to help you enjoy your craft for as long as possible. As a nationally recognized orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, Dr. Benjamin Domb will care for you like a professional athlete and deliver innovative treatments to help you return to the stage.

Call (833) 872-4477 today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Domb. We’d love to discuss your needs and guide you through our innovative and minimally invasive treatments.

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