Ask Amy: How Frequent is Too Frequent for Ballet Injuries?

How frequent is too frequent for ballet injuries? I'm a college ballet major with a rigorous schedule. Within the past year, I've had two sprained ankles, surgery for a labral tear in my hip and now possibly a stress fracture in my metatarsal. I cross-train and go to physical therapy regularly, and I always do my best to exercise proper technique. —Kyra

I consulted Dr. William Hamilton, an orthopedic surgeon who works with dancers in New York City, to get his take on your long list of injuries. While he can't make a diagnosis based on your letter, he agrees that something is going on. "Your body is sending bad messages, and you are right to be concerned about it," says Hamilton.

Factors such as hard floors, overtraining and years of bad habits (such as forcing turnout) can certainly contribute to multiple injuries.

And often one injury means

that you compensate in other ways,

creating a domino effect.

You may want to consider your busy schedule, and whether or not you are eating enough. Hamilton notes that the female athlete triad is very common in dancers who over-exercise. This happens when energy deficiency (often but not always triggered by disordered eating) leads to irregular menstrual cycles or a loss of your period, which leads to low bone density. This can put you at a particular risk for stress fractures and other injuries. Hypermobile dancers are also susceptible to frequent setbacks. "Studies show that they are frequently injured and tend to have short careers," says Hamilton.

But don't try to self-diagnose. "You need a full physical consultation with a doctor," says Hamilton. Make an appointment with an MD who works with a professional dance company or, if one's not available near you, a sports medicine doctor.

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