Why Do Sports Medicine Experts Focus on Dance?

At Cincinnati Children’s Dance Medicine program, we appreciate the athleticism of dance, yet also understand the artistic elements involved, and strive to support and encourage the dancer’s artistic expression through their recovery.

Our specialists, who are trained to care for youth and adolescent dancers, are experienced in the unique rigors and requirements of dance, both artistically and aesthetically. Our team will work with the dancer, family, and dance teacher to ensure the dancer's return as quickly as is safe to do so.

Given the physical and technical demands of dance, injuries and pain are not uncommon. Our team-based approach strives to minimize time lost to dance, and prevent injury from recurring, through:

  • Striving to meet both artistic and athletic demands
  • Understanding that many dance injuries are a result of overuse, improper training, and / or improper technique
  • Realizing the demands of dance along with understanding the injury
  • Assembling a team approach to treat the dancer, including doctors, physical therapists, certified athletic trainers, nutrition experts, sports psychologists, etc.

What is the impact on the body?

Dance has many benefits, including: improving strength, balance, flexibility, artistic expression and personal growth.

However, the physical nature of dance puts significant demands on the bones, muscles, and tendons, while the specific technical and aesthetic requirements push the dancer’s limits of flexibility and ability. 

This combination puts the dancer at risk for injury. With early intervention and attention to proper form and technique, injury does not have to be inevitable.  

Common Dance Injuries

Os trigonum / posterior impingement syndrome – this a common condition that can be from an extra bone, that develops in some people, or from swelling of tissues in the back of the ankle.  This is irritated or brought on by repeated compression of the back of the ankle from going up on the toes, either demi pointe or en pointe.  This is usually treated by some rest or reducing what is causing the pain, followed by improved strength and flexibility to allow the dancer to achieve the needed motions without pain. Very rarely is anything as serious as surgery or injection needed.

Dancer’s tendonitis – this is inflammation of the tendons of the ankle and foot related to the demands of dance, with balance and jumping. This is usually caused by insufficient strength or flexibility, or improper form.  It is usually corrected easily with proper strength and stretching program, as well as form correction.

Stress fractures – These come from stress on the bones of the feet. This can be from too rapid progression of a new dancer, or from improper form or strength putting increased stress on the bones of the foot. This, unfortunately, requires some time to rest the foot. However, this time away from dance can be used to correct the strength and form issues that caused the stress fracture, so the dancer may return without the same worry of repeat injury, once the stress fracture has healed.

Patellofemoral pain – dance puts significant strain on the dancer’s knees, from plie´ to jumps to the unique foot position. This can lead to tendonitis and patellar-femoral pain in the dancer’s knee. This is usually due to a lack of strength elsewhere like the hip, or flexibility or function like the ankle. The important step in fixing knee pain is to figure out what is causing it, and addressing those issues.

Snapping hip – This is a condition usually caused by tight or swollen tendons rubbing or snapping over prominences of the bones. It can be a normal part of some dancer’s movement and development, especially if they are hyper flexible, however it should not be excessive and should never be painful. If it is problematic, it's often the result of using the wrong muscles for hip flexion, leg raining, kicks, or turnout. Simply assessing the dancer’s form will expose the dysfunction, and can be corrected through proper form and muscle use, usually involving strengthening the core.

Labral tears – sometimes the dancer’s anatomy and technique put enough strain on the hip joint to cause a tear in the labrum, or supportive cartilage.  Occasionally, when these are small, they heal with rest and physical therapy. However, if not, they may need surgery. Following surgery, with proper therapy, strength, and technique correction, a full return to dance is expected. 

Spondy (Spondylolysis) – Dancing can put significant demands of flexibility and range of motion on the dancer’s back. This can lead to small stress fractures in the lower spine. Our specialists are well trained to assess for this, and start the proper rest and physical therapy program to return the dancer in a timely manner, with improved core strength and muscular support to prevent re-injury.

Dance Injury Clinic

A local dancer poses.

Did you know about our Dance Injury Clinic, part of our Sports Physical Therapy?

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How To Avoid Injuries: Tips for Parents and Coaches

  • Address pain and technique issues early to allow for correction and recovery time before they are serious enough to cause a significant loss of time.
  • Be aware of the high risk of injury due to the intensity and duration of training and performances.
  • Be cautious of over-training and monitor training volume, especially when the dancer is in, or immediately following, a period of rapid growth.
  • Remember good technique and attention to sequential skill progression as the dancer is able