Common Foot and Ankle Injuries for Dancers
A dancer’s most important asset is his or her feet. Following are some common foot injuries and how to care for them.
A trip, a mis-step, or possibly an old injury that has gone untreated can cause an ankle sprain, as well as constant use of the feet without enough rest, and wearing restrictive shoes in or out of rehearsals. Dancers should watch for sharp pain, swelling, and impaired range of motion. In treating an ankle sprain, a doctor may prescribe crutches or braces to stabilize the ankle. Dancers should take time for ankle strengthening exercises to get back into shape after a sprain.
Jumping and stomping in shoes without enough shock absorption, or especially in bare feet, can cause stress fractures in the feet. Over time, the muscles in the feet will absorb the vibrations from the floor, and eventually the bones will begin to absorb it. Too much strain will cause a stress fracture in the foot. Dancers should be aware of any constant pain that worsens when weight is placed on the foot, as well as swelling and tenderness to the touch.
A fracture can be diagnosed with an X-ray or MRI. Resting and applying ice to the foot will help to ease the pain, and a doctor may prescribe a walking boot or crutches. Dancers should follow their doctor’s orders in regards to the waiting and healing period before dancing again.
Like a stress fracture, tendonitis is caused by repetitive stress to the foot. Dancers should look for continuous soreness around the ankle, or a dull pain in the heel. When dancers increase their work load, especially to prepare for a competition or performance, their muscles and tendons may not be strong enough.
Dancers should try to build up gradually to a full schedule, to prevent tendonitis from forming. Rest and ice, stretching and strengthing the feet and ankles, and taping during class can also help to prevent or alleviate tendonitis. Dancers should always be sure to warm up before class or performance, to include stretching the feet and ankles.
Dance-related injuries can hinder growth, and can sideline a dancer for an entire season. Dancers should pay attention to any pain or swelling in their feet or ankles, and should see a doctor immediately if any of the signs above appear.