Ankle sprains and Irish dancers are not a good match.
But yet they cannot stay away from each other!
They are like a bad couple who just keep meeting, instead of resolving the problem and staying away from each other.
During my time at the World Championships in Glasgow in 2016 my team and I had to treat more than ten ankle injuries. NO EXAGERATION! If you were one of them feel free to comment. These injuries occurred before they even reached Glasgow, on the practice floor before their stage performance, after their first dance, after their second dance and then in a panic because they got a recall, you name it they were coming from all angles. Why is this injury so common for Irish dancers? And don’t answer with the obvious statement that you are always on your feet 😀 This injury can be avoided!
Keep reading to find out more…
Your ankle bone and the ends of your two lower leg bones make up the ankle joint. Your ligaments, which connect one bone to another stabilize and support the ankle and your muscles and tendons move the ankle.
That’s the basics out of the way!
The most common ankle injuries for dancers are ankle sprains and fractures. What’s the difference? A sprain is an injury to the ligaments which can take weeks or even months to heal completely. A fracture is a break in a bone. You can also injure other areas such as the tendons, cartilage and the muscle itself.
How can you tell the difference between an ankle sprain and a fracture?
Your doctor will usually be able to tell you if you have a sprain by examining the ankle and may even take an X-Ray to make sure it is not fractured or broken. Signs of an ankle sprain can include:
Pain or tenderness
Coldness or numbness
Inability to walk
If you don’t treat a sprained ankle, the chances of the injury re-occurring are much higher. Also, if you do not treat the injury and engage in activity too soon, this can lead to chronic pain, chronic ankle joint stability and early onset arthritis in the joint.
How do I treat the injured ankle?
If the ankle sprain is not severe, a lot of dancer’s tend to treat the injury at home by taking over the counter pain relievers and cold therapy ice packs! I do not recommend this! For pain relief, maybe…. But that’s all!
Don’t use ICE!!
Some dancers in Glasgow tried to treat the ankle injury themselves by using ice and then approached me and my team afterward. Some of you may not be aware but ice has a negative effect on the healing process of any injury. The only benefit you will get from icing an injury is that it may reduce the pain for a short period of time. Sure, this would be great but for the long-term, this is not the smart option. If you don’t agree with this, do your research and then come back to me!
Once the swelling goes down, a lot of dancer’s return to practice and training straight away with very little or no attention given to the injured area.
But fortunately, there is a small percentage of dancers who do approach a physical therapist. A physical therapist can help you with exercises to restore the ankles range of motion, strength, flexibility and balance.
Balance training is a great way to re-train the ankle muscles to work together to support the joint. If you have attended one of my workshops, you would remember performing these balance exercises before and/or after your training.
An ankle injury can be a traumatic and painful experience and we would not like it to happen more than once or at all….
Here are ways to prevent a sprained ankle…
- Warm-up before you take part in any activity – include balance training exercises (these are included in my book for Irish dancers ‘Upping Your Step’)
- Try to avoid exercising where the surface is uneven
- Make sure you perform exercises frequently to improve ankle range of motion, strength, flexibility and balance.
- Avoid high-heeled shoes when possible
- Don’t perform in sports that you are not conditioned to perform in
I hope you found this blog useful. Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more updates.
Written by Peter O’ Grady
Author of ‘Upping Your Step’ – a training book for Irish dancers.
This book can be purchased on Peter’s website www.irishdancingphysicalfitness.com
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