Anterior Ankle Impingement – Foot and Ankle Problems for Dancers Part 1

Anterior impingement in dancers is common for many and may be a consequence of hypertrophied soft tissues in the anterior ankle joint. This is usually caused by repeated ankle sprains or microtrauma from the repetitive impact of loaded dorsiflexion. I find that this anterior impingement is more common in dancers who also have some signs of foot and hip dysfunction including hip internal rotation, knees bow in and feet flat. I also find that male dancers or male athletes, in general, have worse symptoms when compared to females due to more force being applied and larger jumps.

Symptoms of anterior impingement include anterior ankle joint pain when landing from jumps and limited ankle dorsiflexion. It can also be uncomfortable or painful when trying to palpate the area. Treatment includes relative activity limitation including avoiding repetitive jumping. In severe cases, a boot cast brace can be used when walking and a night splint may help to alleviate pain and inflammation. If symptoms don’t improve I would recommend getting treatment regularly by a physical therapist or similar professional. If pain persists, then surgical treatment may be needed but for most, this is usually not necessary.

Following the correct program including exercises in the pool if you have access to a facility should be initiated early, with an increase in dance activity as pain allows. Full dance participation may resume when the dancer has followed the correct stages and is pain-free when doing so.

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