How to manage an Irish dancing ankle injury - ready to feis - irish dance
Fitness and Conditioning

How to manage an Irish dancing ankle injury

In 2010, when engineers at Coventry University found that an Irish dancers’ ankles have to bear 14 times their bodyweight when performing certain movements like rocks, it merely confirmed what we all knew already – that Irish dancing is incredibly physically demanding, particularly on the ankles. Unfortunately that demand often comes with injuries, and if an injury isn’t treated correctly then it can end a career.

Take time off

First things first, if you’re injured then you need to take time off. With busy feising schedules, taking time off can be difficult (and heartbreaking) for many dancers. According to Tai-Lei Benson, a sports chiropractor with a Masters in Chiropractic and many Australian national titles under her belt, rest is essential before you can rebuild. “With adequate rest, a rehabilitation program can then be introduced to improve joint range of motion and maintain muscle strength.” Resting also means lots of self management. Benson recommends that if you’re dealing with an ankle injury, you can:

  • Follow the RICE protocol during the initial phases of injury (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
  • Wear compression socks to help reduce swelling
  • If severe, avoid weight bearing so the injured ankle can heal faster
  • Consult your GP or pharmacist for anti-inflammatories to help reduce swelling
  • Visit a health practitioner such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist to help aid your recovery. Treatment options may include soft tissue releases, joint mobilisations, dry needling and rehabilitative exercises

Build back up

Being out of dance class with an injury doesn’t mean you need to sit quietly on the couch feeling sorry for yourself. According to Benson, there are many options you have for maintaining your strength and fitness while not aggravating your injury. “Hydrotherapy (pool sessions) are extremely effective, light resistance work with therabands, pilates or yoga classes. Each of these options, when tailored correctly, put little stress on the injured area. It is important to consult a health practitioner when starting a home rehabilitation program, as they can design it to your particular injury and specific goals.”

Pace yourself

Going back to class after an injury can be a struggle – there is always the very real fear of re-injury, particularly if the injury occurred from a specific leap or step. Benson advises a progressive approach when returning to dancing. “When returning from an ankle injury, avoid aggravating activities such as soft shoe, and toe work in hard shoe. Once you build up some basic strength in the ankle, then you can slowly begin re-introducing aggravating activities.” While it may seem frustrating, it is best to take it slow and steady. “There is no specific timeline when returning from injury. It is important to listen to your body, as every injury is different.”

Have you had an ankle injury? How did you handle going back to class? Tell us in the comments below, or share on our Facebook page

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  • ma23peas

    Very timely! Daughter just had a very painful ankle injury landing a new trick leap…she stayed off her foot for 2 days, off dance for 10 days, and thanks for reminders from her teacher..iced it every night in full submersion. This greatly helped. Also foot exercises (spelling out Alphabet in air with your foot) helped her feel like she was doing something to help the strength she lost. It’ll probably take a full 4-6 weeks before she will feel stronger, but she is able to run through steps with proper kinesio taping and ankle ‘brace’. Many videos on youtube available to show athletes how to properly use kinesiotape to support the ankle as you return back to exercise.