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Ballet Talk for Dancers

9 Year Old DD With Stress Fracture


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After complaining about her foot hurting for weeks I finally took DD to a Podiatrist who diagnosed her with a stress fracture of the 2nd metatarsal due to overuse.

Does anyone know if this type of injury is common in such a young dancer (9)? I'm wondering if there's a problem with her dance schedule or the studio floor or something.

She dances about 12 hours a week and does gymnastics about 3.

The dr also questioned what type of shoes they wear when practicing leaps/jumps. Does anyone know if they should wear special footwear, dd just wears jazz shoes.

Also, our school goes year round with only short breaks of 1 or 2 weeks. The dr said that even professional athletes have an off season.

Is it common for a dance studio to go year round like this?

Any advice would help this confused mama.

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Whoa! The hours of dance plus gymnastics are pretty heavy for a 9 year old. Is this child in a competition studio? And do you know if the floor is sprung or not? How much ballet does she have? You only mention she wears jazz shoes for "leaps/jumps". Does she does not have any jumping in ballet class? And year round is quite unusual with breaks in Dec., spring break, and at least part of the summer.

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Ballet is 3.5 hrs per week, turns and jumps class is 1 hr per week, legs and feet class is 1 hr a week (stretching and flexibility but they also works on turns and jumps.) The other classes are jazz, tap and theatre. I know that's a lot but she chooses to take extra classes because she loves it.

I'm pretty sure that the floor is wood covered in marley (sp?) They also work on jumps in ballet class wearing ballet slippers.

The breaks are: 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week for spring break, 2 weeks after recitals in May and 1 week per month in the summer.

According to the AD this is a pre-pro school that has started offering a competing level over the last few years for girls that choose to.

Now that I tally up the hours is does sound really excessive. She loves dance and really loves all of these classes so I have allowed it but now it seems to be taking a toll on her. This injury occurred during a period of time when her hours were actually much higher than this because of added rehearsals, she danced over 20 hours that week.

What do you think would a feasible amount of hours be to prevent injury at this age?

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That is too much. And, wood and marley don't necessarily mean that the floor is sprung. It has to be raised off of the cement. Is there a level change from the hallway into the studio? Do the jumps and turn classes have a full ballet barre first and why would a serious ballet student be taking a class like that anyway? And even more, why a 9 year old? They don't have enough technique at that age to even be doing pirouettes. What is a legs and feet class??? I'm sorry, but I'm just not liking the sound of this school.


Editing to add that I just went back and read your previous posts, and I think that it is becoming clear to you that your daughter is not in the right school. I hope you made the decision to allow her to do the Joffrey program in Chicago this summer, and will search for a better ballet school for next year.

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Ms Leigh as always has wonderful advice. I just wanted to add that my DD (at a reputable ballet school) ended up with a stress fracture last year at 10yo. They had a master class with a great choreographer, with lots of leaps, dancing barefoot. Our studio floors are nice (sprung Marley) but this several hours long workshop ended up simply being too much for her foot I guess. It took a while of babying it but she healed fine. Hope your DD heals well, it's so difficult making these little dancers get the rest they NEED to heal injuries!

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Victoria Leigh: The studio floor on the first floor are raised a few inches. I think the studios on the 2nd floor are too. I was there for awhile when they were installing the floor on one of the upstairs studios but I dont remember there being any actual "springs." I'm not sure if "sprung" is meant literally.

They've been working on pirouettes for over a year now, most of the girls pirouettes are pretty sloppy but a few have nice ones. The ages in DD's group are 8-10 but one of the girls with nicer turns is 8. There's a barre in every studio. I'm not sure when they're using it. The turns and jumps class is basically a ballet class with extra focus on turns and jumps. Turns and leaps are also addressed in ballet technique class, I don't know why the ad added this extra class.

One of dd's ballet teachers taught at either ABT or Joffrey, I can't remember which, I don't know much about the dance education of the other teachers except one is studying dance education at Wayne State Universty. Since finding this site I've asked a lot of questions at our studio and the ad has done a complete personality flip. I guess when you start using certain terms and asking certain questions you get taken more seriously than a parent who doesn't know anything about ballet. I'm so grateful for all of the info on here.



NikkisMama: I'm hoping that it was just the increased workload during that period of time. Plus I'm always yelling at her to stop dancing around and doing cartwheels on the cement and tile in hallways and dressing rooms. I see your dd is petite, I've heard that smaller dancers are more likely to have a stress fracture. Dd is 9&1/2 and is still [ ] lbs and is 4'2". Has you dd had any problems with her foot since the first injury. I'm worried that this injury can come back to haunt her. I guess I'm really going to have to watch her diet better and make sure her calcium and vitamin D are taken daily a little better too.

Edited by dancemaven
Removed weight per BT4D policy.
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Her foot has been OK since then. It's been a little over a year. She's had other injuries since then but nothing that I would relate to the stress fracture. I too try to make sure she gets enough of everything, which I think is a very good idea for growing girls in general and especially athletes. Very interesting that smaller dancer may be more prone to those kind of injuries. Your DD sounds similar to mine in size, she's quite petite at only 4'9" and slim. She was very happy to find that she had grown 2" since December... she's 11 1/2. She was able to move out of her booster seat and had her first pointe lesson the same week. ;)

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My DD age 9 dances around 7.5 hours a week, and that seems like plenty at this point, with AP school work to go along with it! It's BUSY!! :yes:

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:offtopic: I know, but I just can't let this pass without acknowledgement: AP school work at age 9??? AP classes are college-level curriculum courses for high school students. Wow!! Hats off to your 9-year old!
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My post is going to be unpopular but I feel compelled to comment......in my DD's level which traditionally was comprised of girls ranging in age from 10 1/2 to 12 1/2 has been all over the age map in the last couple of years. This level is the year the girls start pointe. They attend class 6 days a week, 90 minutes each with one 2 hour session that has pointe following technique. At least once a week an additional instructor will have them do 30 minutes of pointe at the end of class. ALL of the younger (just turned 9 to 10), smaller (I mean tiny) girls have sustained injuries this year. Have the injuries been devastating? No. But as a parent they have given me pause. My DD started the school year at 11 and at the top of the curve for development and height, but still I worry occasionally. At 9 I would have NEVER allowed her to go on pointe or dance crazy hours. Her body was still growing and the earlier the injuries start the worse it gets later. I honestly believe the advice the school gave me when she was 8, NO dancing over the summer, NO extra classes was the best. If you read though my posts you will see that I too grappled with the worry that she would fall behind or perhaps miss out. As hard as it was, I listened to that little voice inside telling me she needed to be 8, 9, 10; biking, swimming, playing and allowing her body to develop and grow. She just turned 12 this month, and this summer is going away for a 5 week intensive for the first time; healthy, injury free and top of her game. Her slow development and summers off have resulted in 4 top SI acceptances and a healthy body. A long time instructor at her year round school is quoted with saying "it takes 9 years to make a dancer, there are NO shortcuts" and I agree.

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@dancemaven our school is an International Baccalaureate Primary school, which I am not sure your familiar with but is similar to AP classes at a primary level...if you have a better way to state it feel free to advise....My point is she has ALOT of school work to do on top of dancing and that 7 hours was plenty with her schedule.

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Just a thought but Aren't the Russian/Eastern Bloc schools having kids dance quite a bit and do they have the same incidence of foot injuries?

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The Russian schools start them at 10, they are very highly selected students who have all of the physical attributes for ballet, and they are working under very highly qualified teachers. They work slowly and very carefully, and they are not doing 'jumps and leaps' classes and long workshops with guest choreographers. It is a totally different type of training. I do not know how many hours of class they have per day, but I would be quite sure that it is appropriate for their physical capabilities at that age.


Training in the US and other countries is quite different, and I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but there are good programs and not so good programs, everywhere. We have said this so many times here, but I will say it again. Ballet is long, slow process, and trying to speed it up with very young children, sometimes in places where the process is not even there, is not a good thing. Nine year olds doing turns and jumps and leaps, especially outside of the actual process of learning the technique to execute these moves, are highly likely developing very bad habits that will be much harder to fix than if they went through the correct process and learned them right in the first place. The strength, coordination, alignment, weight placement, use of rotation, knowledge and consistent usage of the muscles and kinetic motivations needed to execute these things are simply not going to be there at that age and even older. They have not had enough proper training to be ready for these things, and many will not have the physical facility to do them safely.

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Thanks. . .this helps. . . It clarifies because it is easy to think, "Well other kids do it, what's wrong with us." And I get it, many teachers aren't trained. Many kids have different bodies and abilities. Many studios don't have good floors. The quality control in our country just isn't the same.

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Ms. Leigh has said it very well. Students trained in the "Russian" system of schooling, in Russia and other countries, using this system of training are highly selected and trained very slowly and methodically. The students train 6 days a week from 4 to 6 hours a day, depending upon rehearsal schedules. Yes, they begin pointe at approximately age 10 1/2, 3 times a week for about 15 minutes a class. If rehearsals require pointe work, then this is additional pointe time.

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