This past month I have been trying to come to terms with my dance career being put on hold due to a serious injury that happened while I was training.

While practicing my grands fouettes rond de jambe en tournant, I went over on my left ankle – which in all my 27 years of dancing I have never done – felt a painful SNAP, and landed in a heap on the floor. After a trip to the Accident and Emergency Centre where they x-rayed and found out I hadn’t broken anything, I later found out through an ultra-sound and my Physio that I had given myself a Level 3 High Ankle Sprain, and have snapped the tendon at the front of my ankle that runs across the Tibia and Fibula.

Great. It would’ve been easier to heal a broken bone apparently, so I’ve done a really stellar job at injuring myself!
I’ve been on crutches and in a “Moon-Boot”, in compression stockings, bandages, and some wicked combinations of strapping tape. Now, 4 weeks later, I am able to walk without any assistance and can do some low impact exercises. I am still working to heal the sprains, and am hoping that I won’t have to have surgery on my snapped tendon. I might be able to dance without it, it just means that my ankle will be fairly unstable without the tendon to connect the shin bones.

As any dancer or sports person can testify, it is extremely frustrating to be injured. When every other part of your body is functioning normally and is crying out to be exercised and used in what it has been trained to do, but one small piece of the framework puts it all on hold. Your patience is truly tested, and emotions run up and down like a rollercoaster, wondering if you will ever really recover.

I’m lucky that I have been seeing a great Physio Therapist at the Millenium Institute of Sport in Auckland, and she has helped me come far with this injury, I’m hoping to be back to dancing in heels in January, but it is still a long road till then. Dealing with the sharp pain that accompanies so many movements, and the restricted range of movement I have, is really a daily battle.

Through all of this, I think the best thing I have done – which has been really hard for me – is to not push it too much, too early, and I haven’t done any more damage to it by trying to dance on it too soon. So many dancers (including myself)  try to push through injuries because they want to show how tough they are, or how hard-working they are, and they don’t want to miss out on that great part or role in the show. But you really need to think about how this will affect you in the long term. If you dance on it now, will it be ok in 5 years time, or will you be even worse off?

I’m not saying be a wuss about it, but you need to get to know your body really well, and LISTEN to the advice that doctors, physios, chiropractors etc. give you.  You know what you can handle, and you should know the difference in your body when it is telling you “This is ok” or “You are taking it too far”

Remember, your body is your instrument, your paint brush, you need it to be functioning in the best and healthiest way possible to be able to dance to your full potential. Dancers unfortunately have a shorter career span than most professions, because the body wears and tears. So make sure you look after your body, and treat it like the temple it is. Even if that means your performances are interrupted for a little while, your body is a miracle worker and it will heal.

If anyone has any injury stories, tips, tricks, things that have helped you in the past, it would be great for you to share them here so that it might help someone else who reads this.