Is your arabesque putting you at risk for an ankle sprain?

According to Podiatry Today, 85 percent of dancers will incur a musculoskeletal injury at some point during their career. Yet most people don’t associate sports injuries with athletic activities like ballet – but rather with football or basketball. Information relating to the overuse injuries of dance has begun to whirl its way into the mainstream. Grueling rehearsals, nutritional deficiencies, and uncomfortable shoes (pointe shoes, anyone?) are a terrible trifecta that can lead to ankle injuries.

One of the most common injuries afflicting dancers is ankle sprain, which falls into the category of acute injuries that are sudden and severe.

So, does this mean modern-day dancers are destined for injury, followed by an exit at stage right? Not exactly. There are many ways that dedicated dancers can protect themselves and reduce their susceptibility for twists, sprains, and tears.

For one, seeking the sage advice of an orthopedic doctor can help dancers mitigate minor aches and pains, while preventing more severe injuries. Many dancers make the mistake of avoiding the doctor until after they’ve suffered a sprain.

Take the appropriate measures prior to practicing

This starts with drinking an appropriate amount of water. Good hydration should become a habit for dancers as it is for those who play sports, because of the inevitable water and electrolyte loss that occurs during rigorous practice. And while the rest of the world is avoiding carbs like the plague, a dancer’s diet should consist of 55 – 60 percent carbohydrates to keep them satisfied and nourished during intense training sessions.

Get screened by an orthopedic physician regularly

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is advantageous for detecting possible bone stress injuries and soft tissue thickening. It’s important to select a medical professional who understands and respects the demanding nature of dance. Many professional or student dancers are required to participate in a dance wellness program, which makes reoccurring assessments of a dancer’s musculoskeletal imbalances, prior injuries, nutrition and eating habits, and motor skills.

Preventive care is very important

Practicing proprioception – or a sense of one’s physical self (posture, movement, balance, etc.) – is one of the most important ways to avoid overuse injuries of the ankle. A dancer must always be aware of balance; by practicing their dance movements and exercises on wobbly surfaces, they can help strengthen and stabilize their joints. Observing movements in a mirror or practicing with eyes closed are other great ways to sharpen their proprioceptive skills.

Talk to an orthopedic specialist about stretching and strengthening exercises that can protect the ankle’s vulnerable ligaments.

Shielding oneself from injury occurs beyond the studio and stage, too: wearing the proper footwear during everyday life can offer additional ankle support and build up a dancer’s stability. Additionally, custom orthotics or shoes with a certain level of heel height can be beneficial, depending on one’s level of arch.

Are you experiencing pain in your ankle? Normal muscle soreness will typically subside within a day or two following physical activity. If your discomfort persists, stop what you’re doing and seek help.

While you may not yet have an ankle sprain, or torn ankle ligaments, practicing while in pain only exacerbates the issue. The physicians at Florida Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics can provide unique insight into your situation and offer solutions to prevent future injury. To schedule an appointment, call (850) 763-0346.

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