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You may or may not consider ballet a sport, but it is one of the most physically demanding activities one can choose to do. Ballet dancers do all types of dance including ballet, jazz, modern and tap, and all usually require about 20-30 hours of practice a week depending on level. Due to long hours of practice dancers are prone to overuse or chronic injuries. Most of these injuries occur in the lower extremity with the hip, knee, and ankle/foot being the most problematic. Common ballet-related injuries include the hip, knee and ankle/foot:
Hip: tendinosis, snapping hip syndrome, impingement syndromes including FAI, and bursitis.
Knee: patellofemoral syndrome and tendinosis
Ankle/foot: ankle sprains, trigger toe, ankle impingement, Achilles tendinosis, peroneal tendinosis, and sesamoiditis.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Prevention
While the most common ballet injuries are overuse/chronic, it is possible for dancers to work on prevention by properly keeping the body at the most optimal level. The first important step to prevention is proper warm-up which can be split into dynamic stretching and prehab. A warm-up should get the body ready for the task it is about to do and should include movements that will be occurring during the session like stretching and activation exercises. It should be geared more for ballet, jazz, modern, and tap as needed. Dynamic warm-ups (stretching) are important for warm-ups with ballet as they are with all other sports.
Sample dynamic warm-up for dancers (active stretching):
25 Toy Soldiers
25 Lunges Alternating
25 Leg Swings per side
25 Skips (A, B, C)
The next part of a proper warm-up is for proper muscle activation or prehab. This involves working certain muscles in order to get them ready for activity. With ballet, one would want to get into all five positions and do movements like a plie in those positions. One of my favorite warm-up exercises for ballet is doing standing hip extension and abduction in both foot flat and pointed position. This allows the gluteal musculature to warm up. Prehab is exercises that will include musculature that you will later use during your activity.
Sample prehab for ballet:
30 Gluteal Bridges
30 Standing hip abduction/extension in foot flat and pointe
30 Clamshells per side
30 Plie squats
1 min Wall squat
30 Calf raises
Dancing Out of Step: Injuries
If an injury does occur, it is best to seek medical attention at an early stage in order to start the rehabilitation process. Physical therapy can be helpful to get you back to activity as soon as possible.
Prevention is key in all sports and dance activities. It can keep you functioning properly and allow you the ability to perform all tasks with less risk of injury. Other components of injury prevention to keep in mind are nutrition and mental health.
Debra Myhr PT, DPT, MOTR, ATC is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Monroe.