Acute Knee Injuries

         "There are three steps you have to complete to become a professional dancer: learn to dance, learn to perform, and learn how to cope with injuries." -D. Gere

       Acute injuries are those that occur as a result of a specific action or trauma.  They manifest themselves immediately and will usually heal in a set amount of time compared to chronic injuries which develop over time and can take a relatively long time to heal.

          The knee joint is cushioned by C-shaped discs of cartilage called menisci.  These discs lay between the femur, or thigh bone, and the tibia, or larger shin bone.  When a dancer lands a jump poorly or twists, or torques, the knee, one or both of these discs can tear.  A minor tear will cause delayed pain, but a more severe tear will cause immediate pain accompanied by swelling.  As with all injuries, ice, rest, elevation, and anti-inflammatories will help when the injury first occurs.  A physical therapist can usually help the dancer through rehabilitation exercises although severe tears may require surgery.

          Another common acute injury among dancers and athletes is a torn ligament. 

           The medial collateral ligament, or MCL, runs along the inside of the knee and limits sideways movement of the femur.  This ligament can be torn as a result of trauma from twisting, jumping, or turning.  The dancer will experience immediate pain on the inside of the knee.  The area will be painful to touch, and the knee's range of motion will be severely limited.  Ice, rest, elevation, and anti-inflammatories will help limit the swelling and ease the pain. Minor tears can be worked through with a physical therapist but more serious tears may require a doctor.

           The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, crosses at the center of the knee behing the patella, or knee cap, and connects the femur to the tibia.  This ligament helps resist hyperextension and limits forward motion of the tibia while keeping the femur from sliding backwards.  When this ligament is torn, an audible "pop" can often be heard.  This ligament will tear when the knee is twisted in an unnatural way.  ACL tears often need surgery and require intensive rehabilitation through strengthening exercises.  The healing time for this type of injury is usually 3-4 months.

          Since the knee is the site of many chronic and acute injuries in dance, it is important that dancers know as much about this joint as possible, immediately care for injuries that happen at this site, and seek medical attention whenever they experience knee pain.