Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones, but Dancing Does Too.

My Injury Part 1

I have so much to share with you about my injury and the journey it took me on, that I decided to dedicate a few posts to it. It was a significant time for me where I learnt a lot and hopefully, by sharing my experience I can help other dancers, athletes or anyone see what one can get out of a bad situation. Enjoy.

Last weekend I sadly missed the first performance of our season due to pain appearing where I was previously injured. I was very disappointed to find out I needed a weeks rest after only being back two weeks from summer. The workload having gone from nil to intense was just too much for my foot.img_3686

My injury occurred last season in May. I was having pain in my right foot for a while, with it feeling tight and ‘crampy’ most days. After a sudden change of cast I had to dance Taming of the Shrew with only a few days notice and from the increased work my foot started reacting to it. I saw our Physiotherapist to try  release it, but the pain kept returning. I was told to take care and rest when I can.

It is always hard to hear these words. As dancers, I believe we have a very high pain tolerance, and when told to take it easy I always find it hard to step back. I love to do class each morning, and even on the days I don’t think I can manage I push and try to finish, which is not necessarily the right thing to do.

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Morning ballet training

When the body needs rest, it needs rest. As the pain slowly got worse I realised stepping back was not a bad idea: I stopped jumping or wearing my point shoes as much hoping it would be enough.

On a day my foot was feeling good, I was willing to push it in rehearsal. All was fine until I was put down from a lift and my foot just went. It was almost numb, as though the muscles had all contracted and didn’t want to move anymore. In a daze, knowing something was seriously wrong, I somehow got to the end of the Pas de Deux and even through corrections. I didn’t want to stop and admit to myself or anyone else something had happened.

Unfortunately I don't have a image of my foot but this is a MRI of a stress fractured metatarsal
Unfortunately, I don’t have an image of my foot but here is an MRI of a stress fractured metatarsal

After giving up and letting the pain hit me, not being able to walk on it was also a sign, I was off to the doctors for an MRI scan and took home a three-week sick note for a stress fractured metatarsal. Not good.

Although this injury is common in dancers, having never been seriously injured before it was all new to me. Stress fractures occur when there is high pressure on a bone over a period of time. Once the fracture is there, only rest can really heal it. In total, I was off for six weeks, and it was a very eye-opening six weeks indeed.

For the first week I could not do much but enjoy my sleep and free time, have friends visit me and more time with my husband (always nice). But by the third week I had had all the sleep and free time I needed. My foot was slowly improving, and I was able to bare weight more but was avoiding it as the pain was still there.

When the last week arrived, I was more than ready to put the old ballet shoes back on. Feeling refreshed and confident, I was determined to come back quick and strong. And that I did. I was performing within two weeks, which did seem soon but with a determined positive attitude and working correctly, not doing anything to aggravate the foot, it all went smoothly. I danced Edith Frank, my beloved original role in the ballet Anne Frank.

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Dancing Edith Frank with Andrey Shatalin as Otto Frank (Photo: Jochen Klenk)

Being back was amazing. I worked with the choreographer, changing things that could be too much for the foot. I said, ‘If I am going to do this, I am going to do it amazing!’ I told them to push me even more, and I wanted to perfect every step and detail. I went into the summer break feeling satisfied having got through my first injury and back dancing before the season was over.

This success made it even more disappointing to start having pain again. With a clear mind and no pain, I started the season like always. But with all injuries, there can be repercussions afterwards. Two steps forward, one step back. Another MRI shows the bone is still not fully healed, so I have to be very careful now. After this week off, the pain has gone, but I am sure can very easily return.

I once again have to be smart about what I do. If that means taking more time off to prevent another long term injury I have to listen to my body and do that. I have learnt that an injury is never simple, very frustrating and easily upsetting, but through this time I have also gained so much. I came back stronger and more determined the first time so I am going to do the same again.

With love,

Harriet

4 thoughts on “Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones, but Dancing Does Too.

  1. Oh, God, I am so sorry. This is a heart breaker. My acting career was brought to an end by a series of injuries but when my dancing was compromised I could do comedic roles or roles that did not require much from my unstable SI joints.

    You are young yet, your body is strong! Many dancers recover very well indeed. Know that someone in the cool north is thinking of you and wishing you well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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