Ankle Sprains in Dancers


Because of the physical exertion involved, dancers are very susceptible to injury. One of the most common dancing injuries is the sprained ankle. When performing a jump or combination, dancers often roll over their ankle or land incorrectly, causing the ligaments to tear. When the sprain occurs, dancers may even hear a small “popping noise,” alerting them to the fact that their ankle has twisted.

Dancers never want to be off the dance floor for too long, but sprained ankles can leave them unable to dance for a week or more. By using the appropriate physical therapy for ankle sprains, however, dancers can be leaping again in no time.

Yes Sprain, Yes Pain

When a dancer sprains an ankle, this often leads to pain and swelling. When an ankle is twisted, the lateral ligaments in the ankle tear. This is the source of the discomfort. The severity of the pain depends on the severity of the injury. Some ankle sprains may heal themselves with the help of an ace bandage, while others might require lengthy recuperation.

Medical Care

When a dancer sustains a foot or ankle injury, they should always seek professional medical help. Even if the ankle feels fine the next day, continuing to dance on an injured foot will only exacerbate the condition, sometimes making things worse. Physicians can offer dancers a number of treatment options, ranging from prescription pain relievers to immobilizing boots.

Doctors are likely to recommend the familiar acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. When they don’t improve with time, however, it can be symptomatic of a larger issue. Because of the quick twists, jumps, and directional changes required in dance, more severe ankle injuries can occur, such as fractures.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy

After getting checked by a physician, a dancer with ankle sprains should consider physical therapy. Physical therapists can give dancers the assistance they need during recovery time. When confronted with dancing injuries, physical therapists will first prescribe a treatment plan focused on reducing pain. This may involve gentle stretching, and the physical therapist will work to mobilize the joints and soft tissues surrounding the ankle. Once some progress has been made, the therapist will work to strengthen the muscles with appropriate exercises.

With the help of physical therapy, the pain should start to dissipate, and the dancer will feel their ankle getting stronger and more stable. When dancers sustain ankle injuries, they often find that they need to reacquaint themselves with space during the healing process. At this point in the therapy, the dancer might begin to do balance exercises, which can help dancers gain the stability they need. They might ease back into traditional barre routines, trying out releves and other balance exercises. This should be done with care, as it’s easy to go overboard with balance exercises.

Returning to Class

After an appropriate length of time, the dancer can return to class. They should wear an ankle brace during class, however, to protect the still healing ankle. When at home, they should continue to do the exercises that their physical therapist prescribed. This will ensure that the injury continues to heal by strengthening the muscles and stretching the joints. If the dancer doesn’t take the appropriate steps to stave off future injury, recurrence is a distinct possibility.

Being a dancer is difficult on the body. It puts an immense amount of strain on the foot, perhaps the most important tool in the dancer’s arsenal. With the appropriate care, however, dancers can easily recover from ankle sprains. Effective physical therapy techniques ensure that dancers have the lengthy careers they’ve always dreamed of.

Range of Available Unique Physical Therapy Treatments at Nydnrehab

About the Author

Dr. Lev Kalika is clinical director of NYDNRehab, located in Manhattan. Lev Kalika is the author of multiple medical publications and research, and an international expert in the field of rehabilitative sonography, ultrasound guided dry needling and sports medicine Dr. Kalika works with athletes, runners, dancers and mainstream clients to relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, enhance performance and minimize the risk of injuries. His clinic features some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, rarely found in a private clinic.


In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)


Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)


Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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