The Dancer’s Fracture – 5th Metatarsal Fracture

Dancers fractures - 5th metatarsal fractures

So common in dancer’s that it has earned the colloquial name ‘The Dancer’s Fracture’, a 5th metatarsal fracture can be a tricky injury to diagnose and manage. Identifying signs, symptoms and risks at an early stage is essential to decrease downtime away from dance and improve treatment success. This article will break down signs, symptoms, risk factors and treatment or prevention strategies for dancers.

 

What is a Dancer’s fracture?

Generally speaking, the term ‘dancer’s fracture’ is used in the medical community to describe a fracture of the 5th metatarsal bone. However, a true ‘dancer’s fracture’ may described by foot surgeons as a diagonal or ‘spiral’ fracture to the 5th metatarsal.

 

Common mechanisms of injury and risk factors?

Generally injuries to the 5th metatarsal occur from one traumatic physical indecent or repetitive micro-injury over weeks to months. In ballet or dance, common injury events might look like:

  • Landing awkwardly from a jump (particularly when the feet are pointed in the air). Eg. Landing on a sickle foot

  • Falling onto the outside of the foot from demi-pointe or en pointe – a heavy fall or multiple smaller balance errors.

  • Slip or fall when quickly changing direction.

Risk factors might include:

  • Weak, injured or fatigued peroneal muscles

  • Poor performance of single leg raises. Eg. a ballet dancer who does pointework should be able to do 20+ single leg calf raises without signs of tiring.

  • Poor foot and ankle balance or hypermobility paired with an inappropriate flooring choice.

 

Some common signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of an acute fracture of the 5th metatarsal

  • Bruising along the outside of your foot

  • Inability to bear weight on your foot

  • Pain & tenderness

  • Swelling

Possible signs and symptoms of a stress fracture of the 5th metatarsal

  • Increasing pain with activity over weeks or months – pain can be dull, sharp or intermittant

  • Localised pain over the site

  • Sensitive to vibration

  • Hard palpable swelling

  • Pain worse at night time

 

Treatment of a Dancer’s Fracture

Treatment of a fifth metatarsal fracture varies depending on the mechanism, specific type and location of the fracture, and the severity of the fracture. Research shows that the best outcomes and treatment success come from cases where early diagnosis and management occurred.

 

Treatment can range vastly from 3-6 weeks in a boot or hard-soled shoe with small modifications to dance training or activities and shorter return-to-performance rehabilitation, to a non-weightbearing cast or surgery. There are many variations and treatment options between the aforementioned, and personal goals and activity modifications can be considered in treatment programs. It is best to find a practitioner with experience in your area of interest, as they can better tailor exercise rehabilitation to cater best for your sport or activity.

 

Our knowledgeable dance podiatrists can help to recognise the specific risks affecting each dancer based on assessment of symptoms and functional assessments, a dancer’s level of experience in ballet and dance, as well as a dancer’s medical and family history.

 

If you are concerned about having developed a fifth metatarsal stress fracture or unexplained foot pain, Book Online with Performance Podiatry today. Our podiatrists are experts of all conditions of the foot and lower leg, and would be happy to help you participate in ballet and dance supported, strong and and pain-free.

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