February 12, 2008

Dancing Smart Newsletter: 2/13/08

Hope everyone has a Happy Valentine's Day!

Hi! I'm a musical theatre major at Texas State Univ. I'm 19 years old and have been dancing for about 2 years, ever since I decided to major in Musical Theatre. I've taken mostly ballet, with a few jazz courses here and there. I'm still somewhat of a beginner, yet I have good facility, and the potential to be a great dancer.

Aside from all of this, I'm also very athletic. I weight train 4-5 times a week, working with a trainer.

Earlier today, I went to the gym to weight train. I was going to do squats, so I made sure to stretch my legs sufficiently. I usually do a stretch routine of about 15-20 minutes before getting into any workout. I was all stretched out, and ready to start the squat machine. However, I felt that I needed to "warm up" a little more, and told my trainer that he could go to the bathroom while I ran a lap around the track.

I began to run, and 3 steps into it, I had an improper landing on my left ankle, causing the foot to roll in. I heard a SNAP! And I was unable to walk anymore...

My trainer came and asked me what happened. I told him that I landed wrong and snapped something. He then went and got ice to prevent the swelling in my ankle.

To make a long story short, I went to a physician here at school that checked all around the ankle. She diagnosed me as having injured my peroneal tendon. She said that it didn't seem too dangerous, and that I would have to stay off of it for a while. She also wants me to go see a therapist for recovery.

My question is this: Will I be able to dance professionally (not necessarily in a corps de ballet, but on Broadway.)?
How will this injury affect my ballet? I know that the peroneal tendon is vital in the execution of certain steps/exercises, but do you think that this will have long-term effects?

Thanks in advance, Joseph

There are 2 peroneal muscles, the peroneus longus and peroneus brevis. They run along the outside of the calf with the brevis attaching to the 5th metatarsal, and the longus continuing under the foot to the first metatarsal.

The peroneal muscle is strained when you sprain your ankle. Often a peroneal tendon strain happens exactly as you described where you land on the outside edge of your foot and roll over on it. It is common to hear a pop or a snap with some immediate swelling occurring.

I'm glad to hear the physician feels it was minor, and I'm imagining you are walking with either an elastic bandage to help keep swelling down, or perhaps if it was a more severe strain you may be using an air cast or lace-up ankle brace. Ibuprofen or an anti-inflammatory may have been prescribed as well.

It is a very good idea to see a physical therapist for rehabilitation. You will need to strengthen the peroneal muscle and to work on improving proprioception at the joint. (Balancing exercises).

Balance, even for non-dancers, needs to be addressed regularly. The only way to improve balance is to practicing balancing. The only way to maintain good balance is to continue practicing. If you don't use it – you lose it! (This is a major problem in our elderly population)

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. How long it takes you to return from this injury depends on the severity of the strain. It could be a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Your first goals are to walk straight ahead without limping or pain, then to have equal strength to the uninjured ankle, as well as equal range of motion as compared to the uninjured ankle. As your balance and strength improves you will challenge it more – but don't be in a hurry!

This injury not only has to keep you from a professional career – it is very possible that because of this injury you will ultimately be stronger and more balanced in your movement. When you are working with the physical therapist or trainer they will evaluate your gait and look for other asymmetries that may have been contributing factors to this injury.
Don't worry, focus on each gain, and keep a strong mental intention about your full recovery. Peroneal strains can be a temporary set-back, but typically not a permanent problem.

On with the dance!


"Education is the key to injury prevention"

February 2, 2008

Dancing Smart Newsletter: 2/2/08

Dancing Smart Newsletter
February 1, 2008

Greetings! I hope 2008 has gotten off to a fabulous start!

Question of the week…

I have a question about abdominal strength. The studio I teach at recently had several students from another studio move to our studio. It's very apparent that the training they have been receiving at this other studio is sorely lacking. One of the major problems I've run into with them is abdominal strength or lack of it. In ballet, I will tell them to pull up the front of their abdominals, but when I place my hand on their stomachs, I feel nothing. I don't think they even know where or how to engage the abdominal muscles. Besides them doing abdominal strengthening exercises, can you recommend any specific ideas for ballet class?

Thank you, Sarah

Excellent question, Sarah! I want to first say that even when dancers do sit ups or crunches on a daily basis it doesn't necessarily mean they will use them efficiently during the dance class.

I'd like to first remind everyone that the only thing a muscle can do is contract. It can do a shortening contraction (concentric), lengthening contraction (eccentric) or isometric contraction, which stays the same length. When you are doing a crunch or sit-up, the abdominals are doing a shortening contraction – in other words – the two ends of the muscles are coming closer together.

If you are lying on your back knees bent and lifted towards your chest, and then slowly drop your toes to touch the ground, doing a leg lowering, you are doing an eccentric contraction.

If you are standing still or sitting in a car and engage your abdominals, you are doing an isometric contraction because the distance between the two ends of the muscle aren't changing.

I teach my students that if they learn how to engage their abdominals properly in standing and in movement, they won't need to do umpteen sit-ups as a part of their training. Have your dancers stand easily in first or parallel position. Have them imagine they are lacing up their abdominals as they do their shoes. Have them place one hand below the belly button so they can feel the abdominal wall drawing up and inwards – while their other hand is just below the sternum, which is the area where the ribs come together in front. The area just below the sternum should be relatively soft as they need to continue to breath easily and effortless while they are using their abdominals.

Too many students engage their abdominals so fiercely it is as if they have put an invisible belt around their waists and have cinched it closed. The first time they need to take a deep breath in they lose their abdominal support.

I'm not opposed to doing extra strengthening for that area – it might help them become aware of the state of their abdominals. Half sit-ups or sit backs, leg lowering, and any of the Pilates exercises are excellent for getting them in touch with their abdominals. Slouching alignment and poor sitting habits outside of class promote weak abdominals.

The challenge is that good abdominal usage in dance means good coordination between their breath and their core strength. Once they understand that using your abdominals doesn't mean the whole area is rock-hard will help them engage them more appropriately.

On with the dance!


"Education is the key to injury prevention"