A Guide To Diagnosing And Treating Common Dance Injuries

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Lisa M. Schoene, DPM, ATC, FACFAS

   Staying positive and on track with treatments will help patients reduce the despair that may settle in. Encourage cross-training activities that will help with injury rehabilitation, cardiovascular and mental health. Discussion with artistic staff or dance teachers is helpful, and will aid in adherence. Discuss and modify shoegear as needed.

   Surgical intervention should be very limited and take place only when considerable conservative treatments have failed to resolve the problem. In my experience with dancer patients, surgeries with the quickest positive outcomes are those that excise or remove problematic structures as opposed to primary repairs. When it comes to surgeries for conditions like bunions, one should postpone these procedures until the patient’s dancing career is complete as a mere loss of 5 to 10 degrees of dorsiflexion at the metatarsophalangeal joint in the dancer could be career ending. More in-depth surgeries may predispose the dancer to extended layoff periods so this should be clear to all involved parties.

   The postoperative course will always take more time in the dancer than for our typical surgical patients. Returning to the rigors of the extreme foot positions necessary for dance will take many more weeks for recovery. A very clear-cut discussion regarding the postoperative course will help with the psychological health of the dancers as well as for the dance company or studio in order to plan for their absence.

   Dr. Schoene has been a sports and dance medicine specialist for over 25 years. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, and the American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine. Dr. Schoene is also a licensed certified athletic trainer. She works with many professional and pre-professional dance companies in the Chicago area.

1. Mainwaring LM, Krasnow D, Kerr G. And the dance goes on: psychological impact of injury. J Dance Med Sci. 2001; 5(4):105-111.
2. Byhring S, Bo K. Musculoskeletal injuries in the Norwegian National Ballet: a prospective cohort study. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2002; 12(6):365-370.

Suggested Reading
3. Solomon, R The cost of injuries in a professional dance company: a five year study. J Dance Med Sci. 1999; 3(1):34-35.
4. Hamiliton, W.G Sprained ankles in ballet dancers. Foot Ankle. 1982; 3(2) 99-102.
5. Conti SF, Wong YS. Foot and ankle injuries in the dancer. J Dance Med Sci. 2001; 5(2):43-50.
6. Hardaker W.T Foot and ankle injuries in classical ballet dancers. Orthop Clin N Am. 1989; 20(4):621-627.

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