Have you ever wondered how ballet dancers are able to move their hips through seemingly impossible arcs of motion, all while supporting their body weight and twisting, pivoting, or lunging several feet up in the air? Well the answer has a large part to do with the shape of their hips, and they’re quite literally born with it.
Female ballet dancers typically have loose ligaments and shallow hip sockets (dysplasia) that enable upwards of 160 degrees of flexion when most other hips are limited to 120 degrees before impingement occurs between the ball and socket (hip impingement). But, there’s a catch – the shallow hip socket relies much more on the labrum and surrounding soft tissue structures for stability and as a result, ballet dancers frequently suffer from labral tears, hip flexor tendonitis, and cartilage damage.
The key to maintaining healthy hips in dancers is to take enough time off between practice sessions and production performances to allow these “overuse” injuries to recover. Otherwise, the injuries can accumulate and eventually require treatment (PRP injections, hip arthroscopy, periacetabular osteotomy). Additionally, maintaining strength in the hip abductors, core, and paraspinal muscles serves to offload undue stress on the hip joints.
Hip dysplasia is a double-edged sword for dancers, simultaneously permitting extraordinary performance while predisposing to injury. By being diligent with foundational stretching/strengthening exercises and ensuring adequate time for recuperation, dancers can still enjoy a long and healthy career doing what they love most.
Dr. Tigran Garabekyan is a board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip preservation. To learn more about Southern California Hip Institute or to schedule a consultation, click here to contact us. Serving patients in Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale, West Hollywood, Century City, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and other neighboring cities in the greater Los Angeles area.