Ankle Sprains and Dancers

Prevention and treatment of ankle sprains for dancers

Dancers of all techniques are typical victims of ankle sprains because they can be caused by improper landing of a jump, quick directional changes, and all the twists and turns dancers do. Luckily, most ankle sprains can heal properly with efficient rest and rehabilitation and do not need surgery.

“The most important consideration when facing an ankle sprain injury is PREVENTION from further injury in the future. As soon as swelling goes down, try to begin walking normally. Challenge your ankle’s stability by standing on a pillow with both feet flat and letting your ankle adjust to uneven ground. Once you master this simple task, try holding a passé. These exercises help to re-train your body to recognize stability.”


One of the risk factors of spraining the ankle is having instability possibly caused by a previous sprain or injury. Those who have weak muscles, especially the peroneal muscles which run along the outside of the ankle, may be more predisposed. For those people, preventative programs with exercise rehabilitation experts who can customize programs are recommended.

What is a sprained ankle?

An ankle sprain refers to tearing or overstretching of the ligaments of the ankle. The most common ankle sprain occurs on the lateral or outside part of the ankle as a result from forced foot inversion when landing from a jump or changing direction too quickly. There are degrees of severity from stretching the ligaments (Grade I), tearing one ligament (Grade II) or tearing two ligaments (Grade III). When an ankle is sprained, pain occurs immediately. Swelling and bruising may appear and may happen quickly or over the next day or two. Full recovery time depends on the severity of the injury and ranges anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

How to treat sprained ankles

All acute ankle injuries should be seen by a specialist to get a proper diagnoses and treatment plan. The injury could have caused a more severe problem. Whether it is an acute, subacute, or chronic ankle sprain, manual joint mobilization or manipulation of the ankle and foot performed by a chiropractor has been found to diminish pain, increase range of motion, and improve function. Rehabilitation should then begin focusing on increasing range of motion, strengthening weakened muscles, and proprioceptive neuromuscular re-education meaning knowing where your body is every second especially when moving quickly without looking in the mirror or holding onto the barre. Even if it is just a sprain, improper rehabilitation can lead to a weaker ankle causing more problems in the future since dancing is such a demanding sport.

All grades of ankle sprains should be treated the same way for the first 24-48 hours with rest, ice and compression while there is swelling. Avoid walking on the ankle and use a crutch if the pain is severe. As soon as the swelling is down, start adding non-weight bearing range of motion exercises like pointing, flexing, rolling your ankle in circles, and spelling out the alphabet with your foot. Using an ace bandage or kinesiology tape can provide extra support for the ankle and can be used for up to two to three weeks, but range of motion should still be practiced two to three times daily. When pain is reduced, adding resistance band exercises and single leg stance exercises can help strengthen the ankle to prevent chronic injury. Standing on a wobble board, vibration plate, or any other unstable surface like a folded towel first with both feet, then on a single leg can help proprioceptive neuromuscular re-education. Before returning to dancing, floor barre for ballerinas is a great way to use the body without overusing the injured ankle. Jumping and pointe work are the last exercises to return to only after there is full range of motion of the ankle and the pain fully diminished.

Local St. Louis Summer Dance Intensives

The D(N)A Xperience with Alicia Graf
July 12 age 11-15 and 16-Adult

Big Muddy Dance Company
July 5-10 age 13-17 and July 13-24 age 18 +

St. Louis Ballet on the campus of Lindenwood University
June 29-July 24 age 10-13 and age 13-21
Webster University
July 22-24 age 6th-8th grade and July 27-31 age 9th grade and above webstersummerdanceintensive.html

Dance Arts of St. Louis
June 1-July 17 all ages

St. Louis Academy of Dance
July 20-24

MADCO at the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri – St. Louis
June 22-26 age 10-18

June 15-19 Tap age 12-18 and June 1-12 Ballet or Commercial Hip Hop age 14-18

Wildwood Dance & Arts
Classes provided all summer

Ballet Initiative at Dimensions Dance Center
Jun 15-26 age 12-19

Dance Center of Kirkwood
June 22-26

Arts in Motion
June 8-July 31 multiple age levels

Krupinski Academy of Dance
June 15-25, July 6-16, July 20-23 ages 14 and up

The Young Americans’ Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School
June 1 – 5

Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company
August 3-7 Pre-professional/ professional

Consuming Kinetics Dance Company
Adult classes available all summer

Renee Johnson’s Dance Intensive
August 21-23

Renee’s Dance Floor Intensive
August 6-8

Ashleyliane Dance Company
Aug 21-22

Bolded events are companies where Dr. Rachel will be this year or where she has been in past years speaking about working with dancers for injury prevention. Want to learn about injury prevention at your summer intensive? Dr. Rachel, a dance medicine specialists in St. Louis, would be happy to provide a one hour presentation that fits the needs of you and your dancers.

PDF- Ankle Sprains and Dancers