Injury patterns in elite preprofessional ballet dancers and the utility of screening programs to identify risk characteristics

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Mar;38(3):126-36. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2008.2390.


Study design: Retrospective descriptive cohort study.

Objectives: To describe the distribution and rate of injuries in elite adolescent ballet dancers, and to examine the utility of screening data to distinguish between injured and noninjured dancers.

Background: Adolescent dancers account for most ballet injuries. Limited information exists, however, regarding the distribution of, rate of, and risk factors for, adolescent dance injuries.

Methods and measures: Two hundred four dancers (age, 9-20 years) were screened over 5 years. Screening data were collected at the beginning and injury data were collected at the end of each training year. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize distribution and rate of injuries. Inference statistics were used to examine differences between injured and noninjured dancers.

Results: Fifty-three percent of injuries occurred in the foot/ankle, 21.6% in the hip, 16.1% in the knee, and 9.4% in the back. Thirty-two to fifty-one percent of the dancers were injured each year, and, over the 5 years, there were 1.09 injuries per 1000 athletic exposures, and 0.77 injuries per 1000 hours of dance. Significant differences between injured and noninjured dancers were limited to current disability scores (P = .007), history of low back pain (P = .017), right foot pronation (P = .005), insufficient right-ankle plantar flexion (P = .037), and lower extremity strength (P = .045).

Conclusion: Distribution of injuries was similar to that of other studies. Injury rates were lower than most reported rates, except when expressed per 1000 hours of dance. Few differences were found between injured and noninjured dancers. These findings should be considered when designing and implementing screening programs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Dancing / injuries*
  • District of Columbia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Leg Injuries / epidemiology
  • Leg Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric