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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine (no longer in print).

March 2001

Dancer's Fracture of the Foot

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Foot fracture x-ray

Did you know that there is a fracture named for dancers? How special! In 1902, Dr. Jones broke the outside of his foot while dancing. He twisted his ankle so badly that he broke the bone! The name "Jones" or "dancer's" fracture has stuck for all these years!

Technically, this is "an avulsion fracture of the base of the fifth metatarsal due to traction exerted from the peroneus brevis tendon when the foot is forcefully inverted and plantar flexed." (1) In other words, when you twist your ankle, the tendon of the muscle that attaches to the outside of the foot may pull hard enough to actually pull off a fragment the bone. You can see the fracture line and bone fragment at the tip of the arrow in the adjacent x-ray photo.

According to Roy and Irwin, a "dancer's fracture usually heals if protected as long as the fragment is not avulsed too far off the fifth metatarsal base, in which case surgical correction may be necessary." (2)

Case Study

Keely Williams photo

Last summer, Keely Williams (right), a personal trainer at Nelson's Nautilus, fractured the outside bone of her right foot when she was tripped on the dance floor. Her shoes did not give her ankle good support. She fell awkwardly, breaking her fifth metatarsal - a "dancer's fracture". For three weeks her foot had pinpoint tenderness at the site of the fracture and ached overall from the swelling and tearing of tissue. Her orthopedist put her leg in a removable, rigid, plastic walking cast for six weeks. Because the alignment of the bone was good, a surgical pin was not required. Keely massaged her foot and leg with Tea Tree oil to keep her skin soft. After three weeks, it started feeling considerably better. For five months since the removal of the cast, she has faithfully performed self-rehabilitation exercises, such as towel scrunching, tubing exercises and water walking. She has come a long way in seven months - she is essentially back to normal. She's smiling again in the photo I snapped while over at Nelson's last week.

Prevention

To prevent this type of injury, I advise you to wear shoes with good support and watch where you are stepping. That may be a challenge on a crowded dance floor, especially for ladies, but do your best. Leaders take note - just like driving your car, you need to dance defensively!

Reference:

(1) Essentials of Skeletal Radiology by Yochum and Rowe.
(2) Sports Medicine by Roy and Irvin.

Next article: Supporting the foot is vital when dancing. Let's take another look at supportive footwear for dancers.

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