The performance demands of a ballet dancer can be compared to those of many highly competitive athletic pursuits. Although dancers are artists and not athletes, the physical demands of performing complex, high impact dance routines place the dancer at risk for injuries. Of all the injuries recorded for ballet dancers, 15 – 20 % of them involve the feet.
Ankle Sprains: Ankle sprains are common in ballet dancers as a dancer’s performance is dependant on ankle stability. An injury to the ankle will limit performance as well as expose the dancer to further injury. Any ankle injury should be allowed to heal before returning to dancing. Orthotics can be useful to provide support and stability to the arch and in turn, the ankles.
Joint pain: Pain in the big toe joint is particularly common in teenage dancers. It is a form of growing pains that can cause swelling and discomfort in the region. This condition should be rested and should resolve when the joint is fully developed.
Bunions: Dancers place an extremely high amount of pressure on their big toe joints which increases their risks of developing a bunion. Bunions can appear even as early as their late teens and may be particularly painful. Cushioning the area with lambs wool can provide some pain relief and your podiatrist may recommend the use of a spacer between the first and second toes, which allows the joint to move more freely and relieve pressure on the big toe joint.
Fractures: Due to the high amount of pressure placed on the forefoot in ballet, stress fractures to the toes are most common. Ballet dancers are also prone to an injury known as a ‘dancer’s fracture’. This involves the 5th metatarsal, which is on the outside of the foot and most commonly occurs when the dancer lands with the foot turned in. Rest is the best treatment for minor fractures, however a ‘dancer’s fracture’ is far more serious and requires months of recovery time and physical therapy.
Tendonitis: Tendonitis is common in ballet because the tendons have to work harder than normal to stabilise and support the ankle, particularly when performing jumps and leaps. Pain and weakness of the tendons occurs, which can cause poor technique and injury to other areas. Your podiatrist may recommend rest and icing the injury. If the tendonitis is due to poor foot posture, orthotics may be useful to support the over-worked structures.
Without adequate assessment of technique, muscle strength and foot structure, a dancer risks long term injury and damage to the feet. A full foot assessment can assist the dancer in identifying imbalances in an effort to prevent foot injury from occurring. If you are suffering with any of the above injuries or are interested in preventing one from occurring, see our Melbourne podiatrists for a thorough assessment and treatment today!