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Competitive Dance: Prevent Ankle Sprains

If you follow Dancing with the Stars, you may recall that veteran, actor and season winner J.R. Martinez twisted his ankle in practice during the second to last week of the show. He kept practicing his dances through the pain and ended up twisting the ankle again while performing the paso doble.

Ankle sprains are common in dance. They occur when dancers land funny from leaps, fall out of turns, or simply trip over themselves (as in the case of J.R. Martinez). No matter the cause, ankle sprains are always devastating for dancers. If you are a competitive dancer hoping to preserve your health, the following precautions will help you to prevent ankle sprains:

Warm Up

I've noticed that competitive dancers are great about warming up in the beginning of the season, and not so great as competitions draw near. But competition season is the worst time to quit your warm-up sessions. You don't want to sprain your ankle right before you have to compete! One of the easiest ways to warm up for dance is to do a few basic barre exercises. Plies, releves and tendus are all great exercises for stretching out your ligaments.

Wear Decent Shoes

In dance, a ton of injuries are caused by ill-fitting shoes. This is especially true en pointe, where a perfect fit is absolutely imperative to safety. You are best off having your pointe shoes fit by a professional.

Be Aware of Pain

On Dancing with the Stars there is an unfortunate glorification of dancing through pain. J.R. Kept dancing after he re-injured his ankle in the paso doble. If he had been a member of a dance team, he probably would have had to sit out. A good coach will not push competitive dancers to perform through injuries. If you feel a stabbing pain in your ankle, it may be best to give it a rest for a while, or at the very least, wrap it. Dancing through an injury is never worth it, for you risk sustaining an even worse injury.

S. Gustafson grew up in the dance studio and spent four years as a member of a nationally ranked college dance team.

More from this contributor:

Working Calcium into the Dancer's Diet

Dancer's Fracture: Treatment and Recovery

Achilles Tendon Rupture: Prevention Tips for Dancers