Pain On Your Foot’s Edge: Dancer’s Fracture
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, September 24th, 2012
Just recently we talked about some of the most common injuries suffered by dancers, but those were of course, only the tip of the dancing injury iceberg (or the “pointe” of the iceberg? sorry, should have given you a bad pun alert). Today, though, we want to talk about another injury that doesn’t quite fall into the category of common, but happens enough that it has earned a stunningly appropriate name: “Dancer’s Fracture.”
What is a Dancer’s Fracture? Dancers seem like they probably could fracture almost anything. Indeed they can and do. A Dancer’s Fracture, though, happens to your foot, more precisely to your fifth metatarsal (that’s the long bone that runs from your midfoot to your little toe). If your foot or ankle twists or rolls violently enough, a ligament that attaches to the base of your fifth metatarsal can be pulled so hard that it yanks off a piece of the bone with it. This is also known as an avulsion fracture (injuries where ligaments or tendons pull off a piece of bone are called “avulsion injuries”) or a tuberosity of the fifth metatarsal. If you were still laboring under the delusion that there is something genteel about dancing, that description should do it, right?
Good gravy! That sounds awful! How would I know if I had a Dancer’s Fracture? Well, you’ll feel pain on the outside edge of your foot, near the midfoot area. There may be swelling, and the area may turn black and blue after the injury. The best way to get an accurate diagnosis, though, is to see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).
Let’s suppose that I executed the greatest leaping, twisting jump-turn of all time but didn’t quite stick the landing, and I now have a Dancer’s Fracture. How would it be treated? The treatment is both simple and frustrating. Simple because all that’s involved is immobilization of the injured foot in a walking boot (hopefully you’re one of the lucky ones with health insurance to help cover the cost of the walking boot). You also would need to keep weight off the foot for a few weeks as well, meaning that you would be on crutches. By about the sixth week, you may be allowed to wear a stiff-soled shoe, but it probably takes about twelve weeks, maybe even longer before you would be able to return to normal activity. That’ s the frustrating part.
Surgery is rarely required, except in cases where the bone fragment has been so displaced that screws or pins are required to put it back into place.
Oh, this sounds really bad. But now I must confess that I’m not a dancer, so I guess there’s no chance I’ll ever have a Dancer’s Fracture! Not so, my overly confident friend–I actually first ran across a discussion of this injury in a running forum, so it can happen to anyone. You could get a Dancer’s Fracture with a really bad step off a bus. Dancers just lent their name to the unfortunate injury because of all the risks their feet go through at every rehearsal or performance.
This injury sounds kind of familiar. Am I right? Yes, actually, a Dancer’s Fracture is very similar to a Jones Fracture. They both are avulsion injuries of the fifth metatarsal; however, a Jones Fracture is an overuse injury that occurs over time, like a stress fracture, while a Dancer’s Fracture is a one shot, acute, traumatic injury. Jones Fractures also are found higher up on the fifth metatarsal, farther away from the base of the bone. Because of the similarity between the two injuries, Dancer’s Fractures are sometimes called Pseudo-Jones Fractures.
So there you go! Another thing for dancers to worry about! Well, don’t worry too much about it–injuries always happen when you’re trying to avoid getting injured. You’ll never be able to dance if you fear injury, so just rehearse well, get your technique down and then, as a wise woman once said, “Just dance.”
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.