One of the basic characteristics of ballet dance is the external rotation of the dancers’ legs, aka turnout. A popular style of ballet is pointe which is danced on the tips of 3 toes. Pointe shoes have a reinforced toe box that is flat on the tip, creating an even surface for the dancer to stand on. These elements can all potentially cause severe injuries.
The rotation of the legs seen in ballet and pointe, occurs at the hip joint. This motion uses six deep muscles and is extremely important for proper movement. All six of these hip muscles connect the femur to the pelvis and are used to rotate the legs externally and internally. Many young ballet dancers learn to use their feet as a guide for turnout. This focus on rotating out at the the feet, can lead a dancer to only turnout at their feet instead of utilizing their hips. This is an unnatural occurrence, and may cause knee and ankle injuries.
Pointe dancers need to have strong ankle muscles and good flexion in the ankles. I have seen students start pointe too early which has compromised the structure of their foot and leg bones and lead to very damaging injuries. Dance injuries are categorized as acute or new injuries and chronic injuries that develop over time.
Common Injuries In Dancers
Some common chronic injuries I see in my practice are stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and patellar tendinitis. Chronic injuries develop from overuse and activities such as repetitive jumping and landing. Common acute injuries are ankle sprains, muscle cramps and broken toes. These occur from weak or fatigued muscles, instability when performing jump landings and incorrect technique.
Acute and chronic injuries can be prevented. In order to prevent injuries in dancers, specifically ballet dancers, you must incorporate exercises that help with flexibility, strength, posture, alignment, balance and mobility. I recommend adding pilates and yoga to your workouts 2-3 times per week.
Pilates helps strengthen the core and improves alignment. Pilates classes that use the reformer are not easily accessible for many and can be expensive. You can take a pilates mat class or even better find a local Rollology™ instructor. If you can not find one, you can get certified to become one yourself here: www.RollologyFitness.com.
Rollology™ targets each and every part of your body. It helps to strengthen core muscles, improve alignment, posture and balance. It also helps strengthen arms and legs and can promote flexibility. You can also use the foam roller to self massage and release tight fascia and muscles. Make sure to MOBILIZE your fascia. Just stretching, or even too much stretching, can cause injuries if the fascia and muscles are immobile or stiff.
Yoga is great for gaining muscle strength, joint stability, balance and focus. Hatha yoga is a common type of yoga. Hatha yoga focuses on balance, breathing and flexibility. It will also help young dancers focus, stay centered and ease performance nerves.