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Bent ankle... now what? ( ANKLE SPRAIN), The Dance Thinker, Issue #6
April 23, 2011

The Dance Thinker

Issue # 6, April 23, 2011





I have arranged a practical guide, for those who want to know the basics of contemporary dance history… (more info below)

2. Two new great pages at the site! (more info below)


1. Bent ankle… now what? ( ANKLE SPRAIN )


1. What is an ankle sprain?

2. Symptoms.

3. First aid.

4. Treatment.

5. Rehabilitation.

6. Prevention.

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I have arranged this practical guide, for those who want to know the basics of contemporary dance history, in an easy and handy way.

It has been released with the intention of facilitating the spreading and access to this information comfortably, and always, whenever you can not be online.

The handy e-book of CONTEMPORARY DANCE HISTORY will allow you to easily understand the basics of what you MUST know about contemporary dance history. Follow the links provided to get it!

2. Two new great pages at the site!

Finally, our health section is live, with the following opening page:

- The Dancer Diet.

And our popular modern dance history section has this new expansion of topic:

- Francois Delsarte. Ideological precursor of modern dance.


1. Bent ankle… now what? ( ANKLE SPRAIN )

“… we were in the middle of rehearsal, everything was going on as usual, the whole group was executing a part and suddenly... CRACK… one of the dancers was on the floor…”

Unfortunately, almost all of us have witnessed a story like that one. Despite all our technical preparation, discipline and body awareness, injuries happen. Hopefully they wouldn’t, but as it is a reality we have to face in our work, has decided to start a series of articles that aim to help us all understand those situations and know which is the best way to react.

Our focus in this article will be on the ankle sprain, which is known as one of the most common injuries among dancers. Below you will find important information to keep in mind when dealing with such a case.

The following text has been written under the supervision of Doctor Juan Guillermo Naranjo, Orthopedic Surgeon for more than forty years at the Clínica de Fracturas de Medellin, Colombia.

1. What is an ankle sprain?

A sprain is the stretching or partial tear of the ligament that sustains a joint (this applies for any joint in the body). When an ankle sprain is diagnosed, it implies that there is not a fracture or dislocation in the area. It is important to know that they are not the same because the medical handling of each is different.

An ankle sprain can happen because an unexpected and non controlled force is exerted over the joint and produces a movement that goes further than the usual, physiological boundaries of the body. The force does not reach to fracture the structure, but if the situation continues to happen repeatedly, it can create the conditions for it in the future of the dancer.

Ankle ligaments, in ankle sprain.

The most common ankle sprain occurs on the external ligament (lateral peroneal), for anatomical reasons. This last one is part of the two main groups (intern and extern) of ligaments that support the ankle: front, back, lateral and calcaneous, (peroneal astragalinous).

Some causes of the situation might be:

- Decreased strength of peroneal muscles or ligaments.

- Lower leg muscle imbalances.

- Muscle and general fatigue.

- Ligament laxity.

- Poor pointe or rélevé technique.

- Poor jumping technique.

- Extrinsic factors like a slippery floor, stage props, accidental crashes between dancers and so forth.

2. Symptoms.

-The ankle twists.

-The dancer perceives a stretching described as a ‘CRACK’, which produces an acute pain.

-The dancer has a general reaction known as ‘neurogenic shock’: sickness or dizziness, low arterial pressure, ‘seeing of lights’ and sweating.

-A fast acute swelling appears but no big distortion or deformity of the area is observed (which would make the difference with a fracture).

-The dancer can not walk because of the pain. If s/he can not walk at all, that would be a symptom of fracture. When it is the case of an ankle sprain, the dancer will be able to walk, bearing the pain.

Ankle external ligaments, in ankle sprain.

3. First aid.

-IMMOBILIZE: nothing should be done until there’s the certainty that it is not a fracture. This can be done with the help of a splint (plaster, cardboard or inflatable).

-Apply ice on the area.

-Give analgesic to reduce pain.

-Not to support weight on that ankle or lean over it.

-Move immediately to a medical center.

Once in the medical center, x-rays should be taken, to proceed to the differential diagnosis. This will tell if the injury is a fracture or a sprain, and will allow the doctors to decide how to proceed with treatment.

4. Treatment.

In the case of the ankle sprain, there is a classification of three levels, according to its seriousness.

For example, if the ankle sprain is of first degree, it can be treated with the so called R.I.C.E. principles:

-Rest, as needed.

-Ice, for 10-15 minutes, 3 times a day initially for the first 3-5 days.

-Compression, if swelling is present.

-Elevation above the level of the heart, if swelling is present.

Eventually, regulated analgesic and anti-inflammatory medicaments can be used.

But, if the ankle sprain is of third degree, a plaster, rigid splint will be used for some time, to prevent new stretching and allow a cicatrization that reestablishes the strength of the ligament.

In the case of professional dancers, who are in many cases like athletes with a high performing demand and physical responsibility, doctors can apply surgical repairs (suture or reinsertion), to assure the firmness of the tissue and avoid the loss of stability of the joint.

There are two very important points to keep in mind:

-The youngest the dancer, the most rigorous should be the treatment. This is to avoid the risk of chronicle sprains.

-The definitive treatment must be done in a medical center. In the place of the event, ONLY FIRST AID attention should be provided.

Ankle bones, in ankle sprain.

5. Rehabilitation.

The goal of rehabilitation is to recover the stability of the joint, mobility, force, and body awareness.

Once the swelling phase is over, a directed rehabilitation program should be defined by a physiotherapist. The therapy will consist of focused exercises that will search to strengthen the four groups of muscles of the foot, emphasizing on the ones that got distended.

Ideally, only after a complete recovery of stability and body awareness, the dancer should go back to normal rehearsing and performing activity. In the case of special situations, a very careful and slow restarting process could be done, but under the risk of repeating and worsening the injury.

6. Prevention.

Here are some tips for preventing the ankle sprain:

-Always take the time to warm up properly and completely.

-Keep a disciplined strengthening routine for the four groups of muscles that surround the ankle.

-Cross train with psychosomatic methods if necessary, to improve your body awareness.

-Be very attentive and critical to the technical training or teaching you receive or give.

-Pay attention to the warning signs of potential problems or imbalances in your body.

-Listen to your self, body and feelings. Avoid rehearsing or performing in extreme states of tiredness.

While dance injuries are a fact that we can not yet completely avoid, there is a lot we can do to prevent them, reduce their severity or treat them in a proper way. It is important that we understand as much as we can about them, but the medical assistance should never be avoided.

I hope you will never really need this information, but just in case you fall into the situation, I wish it will be of use and support for you. The’s page for dance questions will also always be available for providing guidance and help in case you need any.

Written under the direction of Doctor Juan Guillermo Naranjo, Orthopedic Surgeon, professional card number 01 2882/1973.

This content is of high quality but is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this page. Always consult your own doctor if you're in any way concerned about your health.

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