Ballet and Dance Risks


Dance is an artistic, athletic, expressive, and social form of physical activity that appeals to a wide variety of individuals. The physical aspects of dance can be both a valuable source of exercise as well as a cause of injury. For young people who take dance classes, have formal training in dance, or perform as dancers, they typically do so in one of the following dance disciplines: ballet, jazz, modern, tap, hip hop, Irish, or lyrical.

There are many forms of dance that have unique physical demands and specific injury risks. There are also some physical demands that are common to a wide variety of dance forms. For example, many types of dance involve jumping, turning, toe pointing, back arching, and lifting. These activities can produce tendinosis, stress fractures, ankle sprains, ankle impingement, or low back pain.

The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about common ballet and dance injuries and their symptoms:

Common injuries


Injury Description/Cause Symptoms
Flexor hallucis longus tendonitis Inflammation of tendon that flexes big toe; tendon is stressed with releve, jumps, pointe work. Pain, tightness, and/or weakness along the tendon in arch or behind the inner part of the ankle.
Symptomatic os trigonum Extra piece of bone behind ankle joint (found normally in 20% of individuals) gets pinched when the toes are pointed and ankle is flexed downward. Pain, tightness, and occasional swelling behind ankle associated with releve, pointe work, and going up on toes.
Anterior talar impingement Pinching of soft tissues in front of ankle with ankle bending upward. Pain, tightness, pinching sensation in front of ankle with plié, preparing to jump, and landing from jump.
Ankle sprain The ankle inverts (collapses inward) most commonly when dancers are on their toes while jumping, landing, or turning. Pain, swelling on outer ankle; sense of instability with sideways movement; sprains are more common if there has been a previous sprain.
Stress fracture Repetitive impact stress can cause weakening of bone; often without a visible crack seen on x-ray. Common in metatarsals (forefoot), tarsals (midfoot), tibia, and fibula (leg) and occasionally femur, pelvis, and spine. Persistent, deep, bony pain associated with high levels of impact activity; more common in dancers with calcium or vitamin D deficiency, eating disorders, and menstrual irregularities.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome Pain under the kneecap from pressure associated with knee bending, pliés, jumps; can lead to softening or thinning of cartilage behind the kneecap. Dull, achy anterior knee pain that increases with knee bending, pliés, and jumps.
Snapping hip Multiple causes including tendon snapping over front or side of hip; associated with active hip movement; occasionally due to torn cartilage lining the hip socket but very unlikely due to dislocating hip. Snapping sensation that may or may not be painful; occasionally, dancer has a sense that the hip is going out of place; occasionally, there is a catch or pinching sensation deep in joint when hip is bending.
Pars injury The pars interarticularis is a part of the spine that is stressed with back extension (arching); pain or weakening of the pars most commonly occurs during periods of rapid bony growth. Injuries to this area may be referred to as spondylolysis, or stress fracture of the spine. Tightness, achiness in central part of the low back that is worse with arching, jumping, running, and lying prone; better with forward bending; nerve symptoms and radiating pain are rare with this condition.
Disc injury Weakening or bulging of lumbar disc; due to repetitive trunk bending, twisting, or lifting. Athletes may also get a vertebral end plate (growth plate) injury. Low back pain that extends to the flank or buttock; may spread to thigh; occasional numbness or tingling; worse with sitting, bending, lifting, and lying down with face up; better with arching and lying down with face down.




Ballet and dance injuries can be prevented with proper supervision and compliance with the rules and safety guidelines in place for ballet and dance.

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