The Perfect Storm: Predicting Injuries in Professional Ballet Dancers




Gray, Melanie
Talari, Deepika
Nejtek, Vicki


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Hypothesis: Injuries in a professional or semi-professional ballet dancer are significantly associated with perfectionism and fewer rehabilitation hours as measured by the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MDS). Injuries will be treated more often with osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) than other interventions (e.g. physical therapy, chiropractic, and other.) Method: University institutional review board approval was obtained to conduct this prospective, cross-sectional pilot study to examine the prevalence, severity, and predictors of musculoskeletal injuries. Ballet dancers between the ages of 20-60 with a past professional or semi-professional ballet performance history of 5-years or longer with a history of one or more performance injuries during their careers were recruited. MDS scores, the number of lifetime dance injuries, and whether or not OMT was utilized were analyzed. Results: Forty-eight ballet dancers (mean age + SD = 30.15 + 7.48) chose to participate in the survey. ‘ Total lifetime moderate injuries (requiring recovery time of 1-4 weeks) were significantly associated with MDS items “My parents set very high standards for me” (F=4.90, p=0.033); “If I do not do as well as other people, it means I am an inferior human being.” (F=6.61, p=0.014). Fewer rehabilitation hours were associated with more lifetime injuries (F=187.84, p=0.000). Dancers with a higher number of lifetime ‘overuse’ injuries sought OMT (mean=6.3) more often than physical therapy (mean=4.4), chiropractic (mean=4.8) or ‘other’ interventions such as acupuncture or massage (mean=3.5) [F=4.08, p = 0.05]. After controlling for pre-existing health conditions such as anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, osteoporosis, a trend in seeking OMT more often for overuse injuries was noted [F=3.70, p=0.06]. Conclusion: In support of our hypotheses, ballet dancers may experience more musculoskeletal injuries due to high levels of perfectionism, feelings of inferiority, and fewer hours of necessary rehabilitation. Dancers with a history of multiple overuse injuries sought OMT more than other therapies, although pre-existing illnesses may have influenced the results.