Common Ballet Dance Injuries

Common Ballet Dance Injuries

Common Ballet Dance Injuries

Here is the breakdown of common ballet dance injuries according to body area:

  • 65-80% – leg injuries
  • 10-17% – spine injuries
  • 5-15% – arm injuries

So, let’s talk about those legs and how to prevent becoming one of the above statistics. Please see the pictures below for illustrations of the following information.

Pelvis, Hip, Knee and Feet Injuries

  • Pelvic mal-alignment, “Snapping Hip Syndrome”, ligament sprains, muscle strains, tendinosis, stress fractures, osteoarthritis and sciatica just a few of the common results of dancer injury.

Causes:

  • Incorrect turn-out, including rolling of the feet, knee mal-alignment and over-compensation for lack of the natural range of motion (ROM) of your body. See Pictures A-H.
  • Muscle imbalances, in which some muscles are too tight, and/or strong and other muscles are too flexible and/or weak. This is common due to the fact that ballet is so focused on gaining certain motion of joints (ie turn-out) that the other muscles get forgotten.
  • Commonly tight/strong muscles include the hip turn-out muscles, outer quadriceps, calves, hip flexors. See Pictures I-K.
  • Commonly flexible/weak muscles include the hip turn-in muscles (you still need these for correct hip joint alignment), inner ROM of the hip flexor, deep abdominals, deep buttocks, inner quadriceps. See Pictures L-N.

Prevention:

  • See a physiotherapist trained in manual therapy for a complete biomechanical assessment to see what you can do to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight muscles. They will also be able to give the education and therapy specific to your body that you will need for optimal performance and injury prevention and management.
  • Know what part of the muscle range to strengthen/stretch within. A common cause for “snapping hip syndrome” is actually due to the hip flexor being weak when your knee is close to your body and weak when it is farther away. See Pictures I & L.
  • Always warm- up your muscles first and then stretch them out. You should always stretch after class for sure, but before and after daily is of course better. Hold your stretches for at last 30 seconds X 3 reps, with no bouncing.
  • Know your body’s structural limits regarding over-training and injury management. Did you know that if you begin ballet training before the age of 11 years, your hip can be altered as you grow to have a more turned out position?
  • Look at the environmental factors affecting your body.
    • Are you dancing on a “sprung floor” for shock absorption?
    • How do your shoes fit?
    • What is room temperature at your studio?
  • Do some cross-training 2 times per week. Swimming, pilates and biking are just a few of your options.
  • Sometimes joints in our bodies get stiff or mal-aligned for various reasons while others become too mobile. It is important to mobilize/manipulate the stiff/mal-aligned joints (physiotherapist-assisted) and stabilize the hyper-mobile joints (exercise-assisted).
    Please talk to your physiotherapist if you have any concerns.
A) Incorrect first position of the feet – rolling forward of the feet. B) Correct first position of the feet – neutral foot position.
C) Incorrect demi-pointe position – rolling forward of the feet. D) Correct demi-pointe position – neutral foot position.
E) Incorrect knee alignment – knee is in front of big toe. F) Correct knee alignment – knee is tracking in between first and second toes.
G) Incorrect grande plie – Feet rolling and poor knee alignment. H) Correct grande plie- Good hip, knee and feet alignment and arm is in line with ear.
I) Proper positioning of hip flexor stretch. J) Proper positioning of “Pretzel” stretch for the outside quadriceps and hip muscles affecting the ilio-tibial band.
K) Buttock (piriformis) stretch – Knee brought up and across to opposite shoulder and hip slightly turned out. L) Inner hip flexor strengthening – Push knee into hand, hold for 10 seconds X 20 reps 2 times per day. Use deep abdominals while holding.
M) & N) Buttock strengthening – Leg turned out, behind back and lifting off floor. Foot flexed. Hold 3 seconds for each repetition of 3 sets of 10 reps.

Written by Sheana Lehigh (BSc PT, RCAMT, IMS), registered physiotherapist at Tsawwassen Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapist Corporation. Sheana has completed 15 years of intensive ballet and modern dance training and still continues to attend classes on a regular basis.

References:

Milan KR: Injury in Ballet:A Review of Relevant Topics for the Physical Therapist. JOSPT 19(2):121-129, 1994.

 

  • (604) 943-8277