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Studio/Company's injury history


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As I sit here with a (still) swollen knee that neither wants to flex or straighten and pain any time I put too much pressure on that leg or step the slightest bit funny..........I am left pondering..........


Is my studio churning out the injuries or am I just noticing it more now?


About two years ago one of the "top" girls there blew out her ACL, MCL, and menisci landing a jump. Obviously, major reconstructive surgery was needed. She healed, came back to training, ended up with a severe ankle/achilles problem, but somehow has managed to make it into one of the top college ballet programs in the country. Her ankle injury is so bad, though, that it may force her to quit dancing before too long.


Just this year, since the end of August, we have had one girl quit because of chronic and persistant knee problems. They wanted her to keep coming to class despite her problems because the doctors couldn't find anything wrong. After the girl made a trip to Duke she quit ballet.


We also have another girl who has chronic tendonitis problems in a knee (just getting over a rough stretch but she thinks it is coming back on her). There are also four girls who are dancing injured right now with calf/ankle problems.


These things happen in ballet. I am fully aware of that. I guess what has left me shaking my head and wondering is what has happened in my situation. First of all, I am almost 30 years old. I told my AD and AAD two weeks ago when I originally injured my knee. They told me to do everything but grand plies and "big" jumps. My knee felt better after it popped during class so I resumed doing everything. This past Tuesday I landed a "big" jump and re-injured my knee. Re-injured it so badly that it is forcing x-rays, MRI's, etc. I called the AAD Wednesday when I realized how bad it was and was told to come home and rest for the evening. I couldn't make it Thursday either. No class Friday. Saturday at noon the AD called me. I told her was I out for a minimum of two weeks and could be a lot longer depending on test results. She started talking about me picking up on the choreography in Mice and Soldiers and asking which knee it was because there is a jump in there but they can change it to accomodate my knee, and talking about the party scene and how there was just one little dance in there with no jumps. At the time it all sounded great. Afterwards, as the day progressed Saturday, then Sunday, then today........and the condition my knee is still in..........I'm just sitting here thinking, "Do they not understand that something is seriously wrong here?" I am not one to whine about joints hurting. Ever since my left knee surgery nine and half years ago and walking around with a stress fracture in my right ankle for two months two years ago, I am as tough as they come. I remember my left knee like it was yesterday, so for me to literally say out loud, on more than one occasion in the past two days, "Something is really wrong with my knee," means that there is something really wrong with my knee. Even if nothing shows up on any of the tests (which my insurance is requiring before they can give a diagnosis or pursue any other treatment options) my doctor is going to call it a grade 1 sprain and I'll probably get 6-8 weeks of PT for it and no dancing. If something does show up.......we just go from there.


I think one thing that has me troubled is all the injuries that I've "suddenly" become aware of. Like the lightbulb has went off. They are expecting these girls to dance at a professional level. What is not provided is the 6 hours a day of professional training. We have hour and a half to two hour classes five days a week. Three of those are technique, two are done on pointe. Conditioning, consisting of pilates and rotations of ab and upper body light weight work are done four times a week. Then rehearsals. It seems like they are pushing too hard and body's are breaking down.


I don't know. Perhaps I am just rambling. Any thoughts on this situation?




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You are probably a whole lot more aware of the injuries than before, however, it does sound to me like there might be a bit of the old school thing of pushing too far through the injuries. The schedule does not sound like the problem, but the lack of willingness to let people stop before the injury becomes critical could be the problem.

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They have two girls in PT right now and two more getting ready to start. Yet, they are still expected to attend and participate in all classes.


If I have doctors, family, friends, and co-workers telling me to listen to my body (or knee in this case) and put what I want on the back-burner and take care of myself..................is that what I need to do, no matter how much I don't want to and want to rush right back to classes and rehearsals and actually be up there on stage in Nutcracker? Part of me knows that I have to pay attention to this and do what I need to or I may end up a lot worse off than I am now. Part of me wants to be "tough as nails" and fight through it and continue on.


It doesn't seem like there is a happy medium.

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Unfortunately, there is usually not a "happy medium" with an injury. Either you take care of it and it heals, or you keep dancing and it gets worse. Neither is what one wants to do, however, in the long run it is certainly best to heal.

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There could be something systematically wrong with the training involved. These problems can be very subtle --- one ballet class looks almost like the next, for the most part. But the effect on how it works your body can be very different. I suspect systematic problems here regarding the use of turnout/rotation and an imbalance in the way the exercises work the leg muscles.


When you are training under a regime that is systematically doing the wrong thing for your body, it is VERY hard to fix, and can be VERY frustrating. If these problems are systematic in the training, then your only long-term option is to leave the school and find a way to train that will provide your body the balance it needs.


Working through injuries can sometimes be benificial, but with a BIG IF. That is... IF you are able to work in a way that is right for your body. By working DIFFERENTLY from the way you did when you injured yourself, you can change habits for the better, with a greater awareness of what does and does not injure your body. Similarly, if injuries are the result of wrong training, then taking time off will do nothing, since when you come back, you'll just re-injure yourself the same way.


Quitting ballet may not be an option for you. I once quit ballet because of knee injury problems --- and the problems never went away. Yes, the tissues healed, but my knee didn't work right for years. There was no impetus to my body to fix them. They only went away when I began studying ballet again and began to work more correctly.


I agree with Victoria, the schedule is not the problem here. Professionals train one class per day, then rehearse for another 6 hours. Taking four technique classes (6 hr) in a day would be completely deadly.


Finally, you do describe a lot more injuries than I'm used to. Injury rates vary widely between schools.


So... I think you should consider looking around at other schools. Aside from working the the doctor, which you seem to be doing... get a second evaluation from a dance professional on your technique, your training, your body, and your injuries. That is more important than this year's Nutcracker.

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Thanks Ms. Leigh and David.


I've been thinking lately about the school I went to before this one. Most people would classify it as a dinkle, a competition school, etc. But the demands on the body were not so great. Because of my hyper-extended knees I was told to not force my heels to touch in first position, to have a slight space in fifth position, etc. At my current studio closing the heels in first is required, as is "the perfect fifth position." The current studio forces this turnout, but then yells at the girls to keep all 10 toes on the floor because they pronate so badly that their small toes do not touch the floor.


I just had another call from my AD at the current school to tell me about a guest teacher tomorrow. She asked if I would be there. I had to tell her no. I go for my MRI tomorrow at noon.




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A school that requires its students to force their turnout is no better than a Dolly Dinkle school. Worse, in fact, because it leads to injury. Pretentious attitude without sound technical training is no good.


Based on what you've said --- the history of knee injuries at the school, and now a description of how they force their students' turnouts --- I would VERY STRONGLY recommend you find another place to study ballet. Good ballet schools know how to help you work to improve your turnout to your body's skeletal maximum, without forcing it. And if there is no other place to study, then you'll be better off pursuing some other physical activity for which you CAN find quality instruction. In some locations, there is simply no quality ballet training.


If you mention where you are, someone might know of some good schools nearby.

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I'm in a pretty isolated part of VA, Citibob. It's either dinkles or this place, which is regarded as the best around. As far as schedule, class structure, professional caliber performances, and the fact that they are on the "radar" of several very well known and respected dancers, choreographers, college programs, and professional companies.......this is the best there is. :clapping:


I guess it's sort of like when you are there and a part of it you know people are hurting and have injuries and that certain things they expect of your technique don't really add up. But when you get injured yourself and have time to sit back and think about things all those little things that have been in the back of your mind start popping up. Like........what if I had stood my ground on where my fifth position needed to be? What if when I'd been blown off when I asked about my hyper-extension and for help with it I had been more persistant and made them pay attention to my knees (especially since I've already had one surgery)?


I suppose I can play the what if game for a long time now. It doesn't make my decision any easier though. I hate, HATE, to give up in anything. Failure is not a viable option for me in anything I do. My knee zoinking out on me is the equivalant of a mechanical (or body) failure. And in some aspects a mental failure too, because I refused to listen to signals my body was sending me for almost two months and because I'm so bull-headed I wouldn't listen to what anyone told me. I have physically punished my body for so long (not just ballet, but shotokan karate, professional wrestling, there was the 13 year battle with anorexia). I think this is some sort of payback for all that abuse......... :yes:

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WendyMichelle... You are needlessly internalizing a sense of failure here. The failure is not with you, but with the school. Without quality, body-appropriate ballet training available to you, there is simply no way to learn classical dance, regardless of your personal determination. You would have to be super-human to learn to dance in an enviornment of injury-provoking training, especially if you've already shown that the training injures YOU. As a dancer (and especially dance student) you are subject to the whims of your training a LOT more than you might like to believe.


Everybody's body is different. If you insist on a "perfect fifth position" and force turnout in the training, some of the kids will have a body that adapts easily to that, and it will work for them. And others will end up with knee problems. Some will get injured, frustrated and quit to avoid repeated injury. And for some... it will work for them, sort of, and they'll end up with knee problems 20 years later. I know a few dancers of that kind. Comparing your body to others is useless; you were given a body, and you need to learn how to best work with it.

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Well, the body and I have had an on-going love/hate relationship for quite some time now. Basically, it just doesn't do things that I want it to so I'm forced to be mean to it to make it co-operate. And when it co-operates I have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. And when it falls apart on me I go into this state of deep depression and internalization and rationalization and .................


I'm getting too melodramatic for even me! I should've been an actress or something. Less physically demanding, lots of emoting, and........


Who am I kidding?! I love the physical aspect. *sigh*


Thanks for your input, Bob. Btw, are you a guy or a gal? Never know how to address certain screen names.




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Well, the body and I have had an on-going love/hate relationship... so I'm forced to be mean to it to make it co-operate


You are made up (in my opinion) of mind, body and spirit. You are your body as much as you are your mind or spirit. You are dealing with issues that every dancer must face. In being mean to your body, you are being mean to yourself. You have just shown to yourself the results of forcing your body; no one can afford that for a lifetime.


This often stem from and underlying approach to ballet in which we put "perfect bodies" on a pedastel, worship them, and then try to conform our own bodies to that. Kind of like teenagers all trying to look like Britney Spears. This philosophy is revealed in our choice of words, like "perfect turnout". Ballet in this philosophy is not so much a dynamic living artform, but a beauty contest. It is a very damaging approach to take to ballet, not just for the dancer but also to the art form.


As for turnout... it is something we have come to idolize as a "perfect ideal." We've sought it so much it's become an aesthetic goal all of its own. But if you talk to doctors, you will find that there is very little ideal (in normal life) of a highly turned out body.


So why do we use turnout in ballet? For stability. We spend a lot of time standing on one leg in ballet. And the way to stand on one leg in a stable fashion is to work in a turned out position --- not just when you close into first or fifth position, but ALL THE WAY THROUGH EVERY MOVEMENT.


The amazing thing here is that it doesn't matter what DEGREE of turnout your body can achieve (that depends on your bone structure, which you cannot change). What REALLY matters is that: (a) you are aligning your bones and usuing your muscles to turn out as much as is possible, given your bones, and ( b ) you are holding that turnout all the way through every exercise.


If you can do those two things (and it takes years of practice), then you will have a stable base from which to dance beautifully. If you don't do those two things, then you will suffer from instability and possibly injury as well --- yes, letting go of your turnout at crucial moments CAN result in injury.


So I think it's good to keep turnout in perspective. We turn out to gain stability standing on one leg. It has subsequently become an aesthetic of is own. Turnout is functional, and form follows function. Not the other way around. Of course, this only applies to TRUE turnout from the hip, not forced turnout below the knees. Forced turnout is totally non-functional. :yawn:


If you can study with a dance teacher who understands these key features of turnout, then you will likely (a) stop getting injured, and ( b ) make a LOT of improvement and feel very good about yourself!


Citibob is a guy.

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So why do we use turnout in ballet? For stability.


While I agree with rest of citibob's post (and it was very well said!), I am not sure if this is completely the truth. The initial reason for the use of turnout might have been stability, but I think in modern-day ballet it is also an esthetic ideal of its own right. Someone who were perfectly stable at 45 degrees of turnout would still be encouraged to work for more, not for stability's sake but to simply to achieve a more "pleasing" or "classical" look. Also, I think with practice, it is possible to achieve amazing amounts of balance in parallel, see for example gymnasts? :thumbsup:

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Okay, a quick update....


Last night I was thinking I wasn't going to go for the MRI today. That was until my knee woke me up several times during the night with pain. So I went ahead and had the test today at noon. It was supposed to take 30-35 minutes. I had my brace on up until right before going in for the procedure. As they were positioning my leg I started having really bad pain. They had to prop my lower leg up and then put some padding in around the cylinder to make it somewhat tolerable for me. Thank goodness they had a good radio station on (I heard Don Henley, The Eagles, Journey, Heart....). I had to focus on the music and sort of zone out and meditate because if I didn't concentrate on something I immediately felt the pain.


I ended up being in the machine for over an hour. When they came back in after it was over I asked if I had moved or something....because if they get motion they have to do another round. The tech told me no, that I had done perfectly. I hobbled back to the change room and then the tech walked me out. Right before we got to the door leading to the hallway he asked me if I would be seeing my doctor anytime soon. I said yes, next week. He said, "good."








I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I called my doctor's office and talked to the office manager and told her what happened. She is on the lookout for my report to come in and will make sure my doctor gets it asap and that they get back to me. She said if I needed to come back before the 30th they will get me in or refer me on to an ortho if needed.


So that is where I am at right now.




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knock-knock -


not a ballet student, but I DID have an MRI recently.


Wendy Michelle, from my experience it sounds like it takes about a week for the MRI results to be interpreted (of course I do live in Canada so your experience might differ somewhat!), so I think the tech was likely just checking to make sure you had a follow-up appointment booked. If he saw you hobbling at all, in addition to the pain you felt in the machine, he would understand that you were in discomfort, and would want to make sure that you had the next step scheduled.


All the best,



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