Foot and ankle injuries in dance

Clin Sports Med. 2000 Apr;19(2):351-68. doi: 10.1016/s0278-5919(05)70208-8.


Acute traumatic injuries are common in ballet dancers. A careful history, thorough examination, and appropriate imaging should allow for the diagnosis of most problems. The clinician must have a high index of suspicion for occult bony injuries, especially if the patient fails to recover as expected. Aggressive treatment of the sprained ankle is essential to maintain foot and ankle mobility and prevent prolonged disability and subsequent overuse injuries. Kinetic chain dysfunctions are common in ballet dancers with overuse injuries and commonly follow ankle sprains. They may represent a secondary phenomenon that developed in response to the compensatory movement changes caused by the initial injury. It is important to remember, however, that these dysfunctions may have been long standing and a causative factor in the injury. Regardless of the time of onset of the dysfunction, residual kinetic chain dysfunction associated with incomplete rehabilitation of an injury may predispose the dancer to further injuries. Untreated dysfunctions at one site in the kinetic chain may predispose to compensatory dysfunction at other sites in the chain. Accordingly, it is essential to thoroughly examine the entire chain for functional movements when dealing with an injury, because identification and treatment of the kinetic chain dysfunction is important in the rehabilitation of the dancing athlete. Kinetic chain dysfunctions are common in injured ballet dancers and may be a cause of repeated injury. Why then are these dysfunctions left untreated? Medical personnel caring for dancers are sometimes guilty of tunnel vision, and focus solely on the injured site without considering what is happening at other sites in the kinetic chain. This oversight is compounded when the physicians or therapists are satisfied with discovering simply what injury has occurred rather than asking why the injury has occurred. The significance of kinetic chain dysfunctions is only just beginning to be recognized, and many examiners are not aware of the relationship between abnormal motion and injury. Generally, people see only what they look for, and they look only for what they know. Kinetic chain dysfunctions can easily be detected with simple tests of functional movement if the examiners include these tests in their assessment of the injured dancer. As long as clinicians are either unaware of or unwilling to perform these tests, these dysfunctions will remain untreated and may put the dancer at risk of failed rehabilitation or predispose them to further injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankle Injuries / etiology*
  • Ankle Injuries / physiopathology
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dancing / injuries*
  • Female
  • Foot Injuries / etiology*
  • Foot Injuries / physiopathology
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Sprains and Strains / etiology
  • Toes / injuries