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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Injuries Dominate 'Dancing With the Stars'

Published December 28, 2009 9:21 AM by Elizabeth Puliti

By Jennifer Romanchick Thomas, ADVANCE Senior Associate Editor

Even though I was born decades after the foxtrot, meringue and mambo shimmied their way onto American dance floors, I'm well acquainted with the fancy footwork perfected by Hollywood legends Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. While I'd like to attribute my familiarity to classic movie marathons, the truth is my knowledge stems from the popular reality TV show Dancing with the Stars. Who says you can't learn anything from reality TV? 

While the show is most well known for its celebrity contestant surprises, barely-there costumes and bad spray tans, its latest season's headlines were dominated by a slew of injuries sustained by various cast members. Clearly, the show isn't all glitz and glamour. The repetitive movements associated with dancing can cause a plethora of dysfunctions, especially to amateurs whose bodies aren't used to grueling hours of complex training day in and day out.

According to a recent press release by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, the most common types of dance-related foot and ankle problems are overuse injuries such as stress fractures, neuromas, shin splints and tendinitis. But the injuries on the show aren't reserved to the foot and ankle. A torn meniscus, fractured tibia, back injury, separated shoulder and rib injury are just a few of the additional diagnoses that have sidelined contenders.

It's no coincidence that the contestants who escape unscathed--and often fare best in the competition--are athletes whose bodies are better prepared to meet the show's rigorous demands in such a short time-frame.

As a rehab clinician, what is your opinion of the show's expectations for novice dancers? Is entertainment worth side-stepping sensible safety measures?

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