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Dancing Dangers

Are you familiar with “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance”? These television dance programs showcase the rigors of dancing, as well as potential foot and ankle injuries that come with the territory.

“Dancers have the same type of injuries as any other athlete. They have fractures, sprains, strains, tendinitis, ingrown nails, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and of course blisters,” said APMA member and podiatric physician Terry Spilken, DPM. Dr. Spilken has worked with dancers for more than 30 years in his practice in Livingston, NJ.

Common foot and ankle injuries for dancers include the following:

  • Ankle Sprain — Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that connect to the bone pull, stretch, or tear. Ankle sprains should be evaluated by a podiatric physician.
  • Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain) — Overuse injury affecting the sole of the foot and creating pain after weight-bearing exercise or when walking barefoot. This injury causes inflammation of the tough, fibrous band of tissue (fascia) that connects the heel bone to the front of the foot.
  • Achilles Tendinitis — Inflammation to the body’s longest tendon, the Achilles tendon. This tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is responsible for plantar flexion of the foot to perform jumps.
  • Dancer’s Fracture — Fracture of the fifth metatarsal, the long bone on the outside of the foot. This injury is typically caused by landing on a turned-in foot after a jump, often creating pain and immediate swelling, as well as difficulty in walking.
  • Other Chronic Conditions — Dancers also suffer from more than their share of warts, corns and calluses, toenail bruising, ingrown toenails, and blisters.

Treatment options should always start with prevention. Follow these treatment guidelines:

Implement the RICE treatment protocol:

  • Rest — Stop using the injured area or reduce its use to avoid further damage.
  • Ice — Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression — Apply compression to an injured foot or ankle to help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation — Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart.
  • Wear supportive footwear for dancing (when possible) — Shoes that do not fit properly will accelerate issues with calluses, blisters, toenail trauma and inevitably, bunions and hammertoes.
  • Evaluate and correct biomechanical imbalances — You may need custom orthotics prescribed by a podiatric physician. Wear them as often as possible.

If you have an injury, be proactive in consulting a podiatric physician and caring for yourself properly so that further injury can be prevented. Then you’ll be dancing for joy for many years to come.

Source: Footprints, Fall 2012

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