sutures newsletter


Keeping Dancers on Their Feet

Glenn Pfeffer, MD, and Margo K. Apostolos, PhD, co-directors of the Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center, with dancer Kasia Wasilewska.

By Margo K. Apostolos, PhD
Co-Director, Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center

The ballet dancer takes off from the stage on one foot, turns in the air, and lands gracefully on the other foot: tour jete. The wide receiver takes off from the turf on one foot, turns in the air, catches the football and lands on the other foot in the end zone: touchdown. Both dancer and athlete are performing a technical maneuver, and both can wind up injured.

Dancers and athletes push the human body to its limits, which means they often get hurt. Sports medicine specializes in the care, treatment and prevention of athletic injuries. Dancers are often stricken with specific injuries relating to the demanding tasks of training and performance, so dance medicine has emerged to specialize in the care, treatment and prevention of dance injuries.

Fourth Annual Dance Medicine Conference

Theme: The Dancer as the Ultimate Athlete

When and where: Oct. 19 at the Harvey Morse Conference Center

The conference will bring together sports medicine and dance medicine. Robert Bernstein, MD, medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedic Center, will present the opening address on "Functional Anatomy for the Dancer."

A panel discussion on the similarities and differences between dancers and athletes will include experts from orthopedic surgery, physical therapy, athletic training, strength conditioning and coaching.

A celebrity panel will discuss transitions in merging dance and sports. The panel will feature Olympic athletes who have danced and dancers who have worked with athletes.

Breakout sessions will highlight orthopedics and physical therapy and will focus on common dance injuries.

Margo K. Apostolos, PhD, co-director of the Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center, will offer a session on safe practices and progressions for teachers and choreographers.

To meet these needs, Glenn B. Pfeffer, MD, and I serve as co-directors and co-founders of the Cedars-Sinai/USC Glorya Kaufman Dance Medicine Center. At Cedars-Sinai, we have assembled a team of experts from the Orthopaedic Center, Outpatient Rehabilitation and the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.

In addition to Pfeffer, who is also director of the Cedars-Sinai Foot and Ankle Center, the orthopedic surgeons who specialize in dance medicine at Cedars-Sinai are: Robert M. Bernstein, MD, medical director of the Orthopaedic Center; William Hohl, MD, associate director of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery; Rodney Gabriel, MD; Guy Paiement, MD, associate director for Education at the Orthopaedic Center; Justin Saliman, MD; Andrew Spitzer, MD, director of the Joint Replacement Program; Leonel A. Hunt, MD; and Gabriel E. Hunt Jr., MD.

Outpatient Rehabilitation provides four dance-trained physical therapists.

I use my knowledge of dance to inform the unique ways in which our medical team interacts with each dancer to diagnose and treat an injury. As the primary contact with the dancer, I consult with the doctors and therapists about the needs of the patient.

The dance patient and I discuss their training, and an intake survey provides valuable information. My dance knowledge combined with standard medical treatment allows our center to innovate in the treatment of each dancer.

I teach dance, with many of my students having gone on to the stage (including Broadway), film and television. I also have trained professional and Olympic athletes, including more than 40 NFL players and more than 25 Olympians.

What is unique in my sports research is how I apply dance fundamentals differently for each sport. The hypothesis of my early work in Dance for Sports was that dance training may enhance athletic performance. I began to show each athlete dance skills that they could apply.

My Dance for Sport research has been presented at two International Olympic Committee scientific meetings – in 1999 in Sydney, Australia, and in 2003 in Athens, Greece – and at Cambridge University just before the 2012 London Olympics.