Dancing, especially professional dancing such as ballet, can create tremendous stress on feet and ankles. A bad Assemble or Turnout might result in a sprained ankle, torn ligaments or broken foot. Professional dancers also suffer from overuse injuries, just as professional athletes do, and a severe injury to the foot or ankle in either of these professions can be a career killer.
If you have children enrolled in dance class, pay special attention to these most common complaints.
“I made a bad landing after a jump and now walking hurts.”
The dancer may have suffered a Dancer’s Fracture, which is the most common fracture of the foot seen in dancers. It typically occurs when landing from a jump on a turned-in foot. Immediate pain and/or swelling may occur and the dancer may be unable to walk, much less dance.
“I have pain underneath my big toe, especially when I walk barefoot.”
This may be caused by Sesamoiditis, an irritation of two very small bones on the underside of the foot near the big toe. When a dancer is on demi pointe (raised high on the balls of the foot), the Sesamoids provide the support surface. The tendon which runs between the bones may become inflamed, gradually becoming quite painful.
“My big toe points inward and hurts.”
The dancer may have a bunion. Although this is a common foot complaint in the general population, it’s seen in dancers at a younger age. Bunions often form due to biomechanical problems with the foot. The big toe is forced inwards toward the other toes, resulting in a bump forming around the joint of the big toe.
“My foot hurts when I walk barefoot, especially first thing in the morning.”
The dancer may have Plantar Fasciitis. The tissue (fascia) connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes becomes inflamed and painful and the dancer may experience an increase in pain after class or following a performance. Plantar Fasciitis can also be caused by tightness in the calf or the Achilles tendon, or dancing on a hard surface.
“My heel and lower calf hurt, especially when I run or jump.”
The dancer may have Achilles Tendonitis. Tendonitis can occur in any of the tendons in the ankle area, but most commonly occurs in the body’s longest tendon—the Achilles tendon. Able to withstand forces greater than 1000 pounds, this tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, and is especially necessary when performing jumps. Due to the Achilles’ heavy workload in the dancing population, it’s prone to inflammation (tendinitis). It is also the most frequently ruptured tendon in the general poulation.
“I rolled my ankle during class and heard a ‘popping’ sound.”
The dancer may have suffered an ankle sprain, the most common type of ankle injury for dancers. Ankle sprains occur when the ankle is turned or rolled outwards, tearing the stabilizing ligaments. Ankle sprains usually occur during an improper landing, or landing on an object or another dancers foot. If the sprain is significant, it’s not uncommon to hear an audible ‘pop’ sound.
More information on dance injuries can be found here.
Just as in sports, dancers of any age and ability level should always warm up before training or performance and dancers should pay extra attention to strengthening the leg muscles that support the arch of the foot. Any complaints of pain by a child or adult should not be ignored and a podiatrist should be seen as soon as possible for a thorough examination and diagnosis.
PA Foot And Ankle Associates are expert at treating sports injuries and overuse injuries such as those which dancers may suffer. If you’re experiencing pain, make an appointment today for a diagnosis and treatment schedule.