Ballet Injuries: 8 Common Types of Ballet Dancer Injuries
As every ballet dancer eventually finds out for themselves, as graceful and elegant as a dance can be, the act of performance can lead to injury. Even when one does everything they’re supposed to and maintains perfect form, they’re putting a level of stress on their bodies which almost promotes injury.
The strongest, most flexible dancers have to contend with this, just like inexperienced ballet dancers have to. Here are some of the most common ballet injuries and instruction on how to prevent or treat them.
The hips are a tricky thing. It’s common for a ballet dancer to run into several different types of injuries here, such as snapping hip syndrome, hip impingement, labral tears, hip flexor tendonitis, hip bursitis, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
These injuries, like so many others on this list, are predominantly overuse injuries. Because of the amount of activity ballet dancers have to go through and subsequently, all the movement, overuse and overtraining are very common. Repetitive movement several hours a day does not come easy on any person’s body.
2. Foot and ankle injuries
The most common ballet injuries are foot and ankle-related, such as ankle impingement. These are not stress-related, unlike a lot of ballet injuries. Ankle injuries are sudden and unexpected, and can be very traumatic. An ankle sprain can happen, twisting or overstretching ligaments around the foot. This can happen from a jump mistimed, misaligned ankles, or poorly fitted shoes.
Unfortunately, once you’ve experienced your first ankle sprain, you’re likely to do it again. This cycle can continue on and on, with injury after injury. Dancers battling through an injury and/or who refuse to take the time to recover only worsen their health.
3. Knee injuries
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a type of ballet injury which does come up from time to time. Perhaps surprisingly so, ballet dancers have one of the lowest rates of ACL injuries compared to other athletes. The reason for this is because there is more intense jumping in ballet which will improve muscle control.
As the knee receives more muscle support, it’s able to handle weight more effectively. An excellent way to prevent these knee-related ballet injuries is to do things like stretching, yoga, and cross-training exercises to build strength and endurance in this part of the body.
4. General stress fractures
From all the stress ballet dancers put on their bodies, a lot will encounter difficult-to-handle fractures including in the lumbar spine, sesamoids, tibia, or metatarsals. These oftentimes stem from long days practicing. On top of the hours a ballet dancer will invest in their performance, they also get little down-time.
With many of the ballet injuries, there is no time to rest the body and recover. Unlike football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, MMA, and virtually every other sport, ballet dancers don’t have an off-season. Subsequently, when one adds restrictive diet and you have the perfect setting for a stress fracture.
5. Trigger toe
‘Trigger toe’ is another name for flexor hallucis longus tenosynovitis. This is another overuse ballet injury. With trigger toe, you’re getting inflammation and damage to the muscle that’s active in pointing the big toe. The pain can be significant for a ballet dancer and it may effect one’s capability in pointing their big toe.
The best prevention is in using good form and barre equipment when practicing ballet. It is also important not to crunch your toes to force a pointe. The treatment with trigger toe is physical therapy based although, should symptoms not resolve on their own, sometimes surgery is required to release the tendon from surrounding tissues.
Sadly, as ballet dancers advanced in age will confirm, there is a higher than average rate of arthritis among the demographic particularly as it applies to the knee, hip, ankle, and foot. Unfortunately, all the stress put on the body adds up, resulting in some unwanted ballet injuries and symptoms as you get older.
There are certain ways to minimize the risk of arthritis, including getting enough rest, avoiding overtraining, staying hydrated, stretching, wearing the proper shoes and attire, and warming up prior to a performance or training session.
7. Achilles tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon in the back of the ankle used to point one’s foot. As one activates their Achilles regularly, an overuse injury is quite common among ballet dancers. If a dancer’s using improper technique or has been excessively training, they’re more likely to experience Achilles tendonitis.
To prevent this injury, stretching the Achilles with the foot is best. In terms of treatment after the injury’s occurred, physical therapy focused on correcting technique, decreasing inflammation, calf stretching and soft tissue massage is oftentimes recommended.
8. Snapping hip
Snapping hip syndrome is the most common hip injury for a ballet dancer. It usually starts with snapping sounds in the front of the hip. Over time, it leads to tightness and weakness around it. Eventually, the snapping which as once annoying then becomes extremely painful.
The best prevention methods are exercise like foam rolling the hip flexors, quadriceps, IT band, and glutes. Treatments include core strengthening exercises, pelvic stabilization, and other forms of physical therapy until all symptoms resolve.