MRI could predict injury in ballet dancers

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers

December 2, 1999 --

CHICAGO - A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study found early stages of osteoarthritis in asymptomatic professional ballet dancers and could be used to predict and prevent serious injuries.

Dr. David Salonen described the results of a baseline study at an RSNA press conference; his study will be presented in a musculoskeletal scientific session on Friday at 11:42 a.m. in room S405AB. Salonen is the division head of musculoskeletal imaging and assistant professor in the department of medical imaging at the Toronto-Western Hospital, University Health Network in Canada.

Eleven female dancers with an average age of 28, and an average professional performance history of eight years, underwent MRI of both ankles. No patient had a recent history of ankle injury and all were asymptomatic. Three blinded reviewers assessed the images for the presence of abnormalities of the ligaments, tendons, joints and osseous structures.

Osteoarthritis was found in 19 talonavicular joints, or 86% of the dancers. Thirty-two percent had osteoarthritis in a subtalar joint and 45% showed signs of stress in a tibiotalar. Fluid was detected with the MRI in 19 tibiotalar and 22 subtalar joints and 28 tendon sheaths. All the ankles were clinically stable and had a full range of painless motion, according to the results.

"If we can get at the causality of the osteoarthritis in a non-invasive way, we can make modifications to the dancer's training and performance, and treat it before an unfortunate outcome," Salonen said. Possible solutions include rotating performances the way professional pitchers in baseball do, he added.

Salonen said he will expand the study to determine if dancing on pointe at a very young age contributes to the high rate of osteoarthritis among dancers.

By AuntMinnie.com staff writers
December 2, 1999
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