Dance related injuries: How forcing turnout can lead to injury. 

Sep 4, 2023

Dance related injuries: How forcing turnout can lead to injury. 


Dance is an ever-evolving art form, requiring a high level of athleticism to meet the requirements of modern-day dance. Dancers utilize both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, as well as components of fitness such as agility, coordination, speed, balance and power. Like any other athletic population, injuries in dance are highly prevalent. Along with the high reported injury prevalence, it is also widely known in the dance population that injuries often go unreported, or left until they are more severe, due to the high-stake environment within most levels of dance. 


What is a dance injury? 


Injury has been previously defined as physical pain that forces a dancer to cease activity for at least 24 hours, but this is hard to monitor and may not be an accurate representation of the true injury rate when many dancers continue to dance through their pain. In addition to this, dancers’ injuries are sometimes overlooked, due to lack of education within health professions. Dance may be seen as a graceful and elegant artform, but it is often unknown to physicians how physically taxing and demanding it can really be, and how potentially injurious it is for its participants. 


What is turnout? 


Turnout (TO) in dance refers to the outward rotation of the lower limb, starting at the hip and following down to the knee and ankle joints. As dance is known for its aesthetic component, TO is the basis of the majority of all dance styles but is originated from one of the 5 positions in classical ballet. The ideal TO a dancer aims to achieve is 180°. These 180° are known as the gold standard in dance; however, this is a modern-day ideal in comparison to dancers in the 17th century who only had to achieve 90° of TO to be considered technically perfect. 


What is forced/compensated turnout? 


Forced or compensated turnout refers to overturning or forcing turnout beyond the individual’s available range of motion, with different techniques used by dancers to achieve this. 


Top 3 ways dancers compensate their turnout: 


  1. Increasing the curve of the spine at the lower back and tilting pelvis forward 
  1. “Screwing the knee” – when a dancer straightens the knees in a demi-plié position while keeping the feet stationary 
  1. Rolling in of the feet and over the arch 


How can turnout lead to injury? 


One of the most serious training errors a dancer can make is forcing the feet into a greater turnout position than their available hip range of motion would usually allow them to. This is known to cause a series of compensations starting at the distal joints and working up the kinetic chain to potentially affect the ankle, knee and hip and lower back. 


What type of injuries can compensated-turnout lead to? 


  1. Back pain 
  2. Hip pain 
  3. Medial knee ligament injuries 
  4. Medial knee meniscus injuries 
  5. Plantar fasciitis  
  6. Flexor hallucis longus tenosynovitis  


How we can help: 


  1. Tailored rehab programmes specific to your style of dance 
  1. Specific strength and conditioning of hip related muscles 
  1. Education on how to safely return to dance 
  1. Educate and reduce the stigma surrounding injuries in dance 


If you require any further information or help, pleas contact the clinic on 028 92666959, or email us at

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