Objective: To ascertain the prevalence of hypermobility and the benign joint hypermobility syndrome (BJHS) in male and female student and professional ballet dancers, and explore whether BJHS has any effect on a dance career.
Methods: Students from the Royal Ballet School and professional dancers from the Royal Ballet Company, London, were compared with a control group of teenagers and adults from a local secondary school and The Royal Opera House, respectively. The data, examined by variance analysis, included anthropometric variables, the Beighton score, and clinical features constituting BJHS. Odds ratios for hypermobility and BJHS in dancers were calculated, and the prevalence and distribution of BJHS was examined.
Results: Hypermobility and BJHS were common in male and female dancers compared with controls. An OR of 11.0 (95% CI 3.3-31.8) was found for hypermobility in dancers for both the ballet school and the professional company. The prevalence of BJHS was found to decline both from student to professional and within the ballet company from corps de ballet to Principal. Odds ratios for BJHS in student dancers were significant, OR = 3.9 (95% CI 1.3-11.3), but not so in professional dancers: OR = 1.7 (95% CI 0.6-4.7). Arthralgia was common in dancers and was reported more often in males than females. In females, pain was reported most by dancers with other features of BJHS, in particular stretchy skin.
Conclusion: Hypermobility and BJHS are common in both male and female student and professional ballet dancers. The fall in prevalence, and the greater reporting of arthralgia with other features of BJHS in young female dancers, suggests that BJHS may have an important negative influence, and this may have implications for training. The same pattern was not observed in males, suggesting that their pain-reporting and injury are related to factors other than BJHS.