Michael Jackson’s 'Smooth Criminal' Lean Is Impossible Without Help and Can Cause Harm, Researchers Find

Dana Dovey

If Annie is OK, so can you—as long as you don't do Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" lean by yourself. 

A new study investigated the biophysics of the dance move and revealed it's physically impossible without help, and could cause serious harm if you don’t know what you’re doing.

In a study published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, neurosurgeons from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India, looked at how the human body would react to leaning from the ankle at a 45-degree angle while keeping the body straight.

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The King of Pop inspiring dancers to push their limits. Here's Michael Jackson on stage in 1996. Phil Walter/Getty Images

Three neurosurgeons calculated that the feat is only possible for those with extremely strong core muscles, a series of torso muscles, extending from the shoulders to the hips. However, the researchers concluded that even dancers with the strongest core muscles could only maintain this tilt at 25 to 30 degrees forward from the ankle, not Jackson’s 45-degree tilt.

The researchers also warned that if you are not a professional and do not have the proper assistance, attempting this move will result in serious bodily harm.

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Without a bit of help, the move would put a great amount of strain on the Achilles tendon in each of the dancer's ankles. "The chances of injury to the ankle are significant. You need strong core muscles and good support around the ankle,” study researcher Manjul Tripathi told The BBC. “It's not a simple trick."

The Achilles tendon is an important tendon that runs along the back of the ankle and connects the muscle in the back of the calf to that in the heel. If this is overstretched it may rupture. This would affect an individual's ability to walk and often surgery is required to address the problem.

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Although Jackson was an accomplished dancer, his tilt was thanks to specially designed shoes. In fact, Jackson had the shoes patented just for this purpose. The shoes have a V-shaped slit at the bottom of the heel that can hook onto a nail in the ground or on the dancefloor. When the dancer hooks the heel slit into the nail, it keeps their feet on the ground as they tilt forward. Prior to having the shoes, Jackson accomplished the deed with the help of wires attached to a waist harness, The BBC reported.

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The researchers commended Jackson for inspiring dancers to push the limits with their dance moves, but warned that sometimes dancers may go too far.

“Though a visual delight, such moves also lead to new forms of musculoskeletal injuries,” said Tripathi in a statement. "'The King of Pop' has not only been an inspiration but a challenge to the medical fraternity."

This article was first written by Newsweek

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