How to Prevent and Treat Irish Step Dancing Foot Injuries
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
This time of year, it’s always a joy to watch Irish step dancing in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. However, many people have no idea the enormous load this style of dance places on the dancers’ bodies. “Irish step dance may be enjoyable and look more graceful than contact sports, but it still takes a tremendous toll on the body — particularly the soft tissues, bones, and joints of the feet and ankles,” explains Dr. Mariola Rivera, a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine here at The Center For Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine in NYC.
Irish Step Dancer Injuries of the Foot and Ankle
According to research published in the journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the number of injuries generally increases as dancers increase their level of competency. In their assessment of 69 Irish step dancers from 2002-2009, they found a high number of injuries:
- 30% developed stress fractures,
- 11% developed knee pain,
- 6% developed heel pain, and
- 80% sustained multiple injuries.
Another study, published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, found that only 3 in 18 professional Irish step dancers had “normal” ankles. Top Irish dance injuries of the foot and ankle included the following:
- Achilles tendinopathy,
- Plantar fasciitis,
- Bone edema, and
- Calcaneocuboid joint degeneration.
Check It Out: Tendinitis, Sprains and Fractures – Top 3 Dance Injuries
Dancers Come Under Tremendous Forces
Engineers at Coventry University have reported that the ankles of Irish dancers withstand 14 times their body weight during moves like “The Rock Step.” This, they say, is a far greater load than competitive runners face and comparable to the force experienced by fighter pilots! The soles of the feet bore 4.5 times the dancer’s body weight. By comparison, classical ballet dancers experience incredibly light loads at just 25% of what Irish dancers face. Study participants from the Celtic Feet Irish Dance and Theatre Company suffered similar injuries to pro soccer players.
How to Prevent Irish Step Dancing Injuries
- Always warm up and cool down.
- Allow adequate rest to heal from rehearsals, performances, and competitions.
- Buy toe tape and follow these instructions, particularly if you worry you have bunions forming.
- Apply anti-chafe balm to the feet to prevent blisters, corns, and calluses that can make your feet prone to infection.
- Moleskin tape or Blister Booties provide relief once blisters, corns, or sore spots have already developed.
- Use toe caps to find relief from sore toes and gel cushions for pain in the ball of the foot.
- Use light weights to develop core, hip, and ankle strength and to offload pressure placed on the lower extremities.
- Adopt new training schedules gradually — increase duration of time, frequency, or intensity by no more than 10% each week.
- Get professionally fitted for shoes to ensure the correct size.
- Outside class, wear supportive and properly sized sneakers to protect feet from injury.
- Stop dancing if pain or swelling occurs and rest, ice, compress, and elevate the feet. Anti-inflammatory medicine may also be taken.
- See a professional sports medicine doctor for comprehensive care. We offer many non-invasive treatments for your recovery!
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Dance Injury Treatment in NYC
The Center For Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine specializes in sports and dance medicine, from the diagnosis and treatment of acute injuries like fractures to the long-term management of chronic conditions like plantar fasciitis or tendinopathy and prevention strategies. We take a holistic approach to wellness, providing Irish step dancing enthusiasts with advice on nutrition, stretching, exercising, training, alternative medicine, equipment, and footwear choices, in addition to providing the latest scientifically-proven therapies for trauma, pain and rehabilitation. Injection therapy, ultrasound, low-level shockwave treatment, pain lasers, and physical therapy are just a few of our offerings. We have board-certified podiatrists, podiatric surgeons, and sports medicine doctors on staff to guide you through the appropriate intervention. For your convenience, we have two facilities — one in Manhattan and one in Westchester, NY. Click to learn more.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.