Dance Injuries

Dance, or the movement of the body to music, has been done in every country since before recorded history. Dance has been used for many purposes, and the variety of types of dance is endless. Interestingly, dance appears to be a rather uniquely human activity. Although many animals can be taught dance movements, studies show that only the elephant and parrot can spontaneously move to music!

Dance today in western countries is primarily done for recreation and sport. Lower extremity injuries are common in dancers because of the physical demands of dynamic overload, extreme positions and motions, and overuse. Additionally, many types of dance are done without shoes or in thin shoes without support, such as the ballet slipper.

Of all types of dance, ballet has the highest injury rates . The most common dance injuries that are seen in all dance forms are most common in ballet. These include sesamoiditis, flexor hallucis tendinitis, os trigonum syndrome, anterior ankle impingement, and stress fractures.

Sesamoiditis refers to an inflammation of the small bones (sesamoid bones) beneath the great toe joint. Flexor hallucis tendinitis is a tendon inflammation of the back of the ankle. This is sometimes associated with a painful accessory bone called the os trigonum. Stress fractures, or incomplete partial cracks in the bone, are the most frequent dance injury, comprising over a third of all injuries. The most common bones involved in stress fractures are the sesamoids (28% of fractures); metatarsals (23%); navicular (12%); great toe (12%); and tibia (9%).
Most dance injuries are easily diagnosed with clinical examination and selected imaging techniques including X-rays; CT scan; diagnostic ultrasound; and MRI. Treatment of injuries is usually conservative, consisting of modified rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and immobilization. Surgery, rarely needed, can often be done arthroscopically.

Prevention of dance injuries includes strengthening, stretching, and, most importantly, proper technique. Children should not dance en pointe until the age of 12 years.

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