Injuries Impacting Professional Dancers

Injury-Prevention Tips from Joffrey Dancers Help Recreational Athletes

Injury-Prevention Tips from Joffrey Dancers Help Recreational Athletes

Professional dancers, like professional athletes, are subject to injury because of the constant stress they put on their bodies. And while these dancers and athletes have dedicated medical teams to attend to their needs, recreational athletes can learn from their experience.

“Dancers in a lot of ways are similar to everyday athletes who want to stay in shape and have fun,” says Simon Lee, MD, foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and medical director for The Joffrey Ballet.

Just like dancers, recreational athletes can experience stress fractures, sprained ankles, tendinitis and knee issues. To prevent such injuries, it’s important to start with a good warm-up.

“I don’t think people realize how much time dancers spend warming up and stretching,” Lee says. “Recreational athletes are pressed for time and want to compress their athletic activity, but that’s the way injuries occur. The older we get the more important it is to get warmed up and stretch.”

Joanna Wozniak, a full member of the Joffrey since 2003, can rattle off a list of aches, pains and injuries she has suffered because of her physically demanding profession. To prevent injuries, Wozniak, like the other Joffrey dancers, starts with a daily 90-minute class of classical ballet exercises to warm up the body.

“Every movement is important to work every different muscle system, just like every brick is important for the foundation in a house,” she says. The class is followed by six hours of rehearsal, during which dancers learn the movements of new choreography and eventually start running through the whole dance.

In addition to dancing, Wozniak is on the move in other ways. She goes for walks, rides her bike, runs to build stamina, takes Pilates classes to strengthen her core muscles and practices Bikram yoga and other forms of yoga for stretching.

“It’s good to practice different forms of exercise because they use different muscles,” Wozniak says. “It’s like rotating the tires on a car because it slows down wear and tear.”

Cross-training with other sports and strengthening core muscles is critically important for recreational athletes, Lee says. He recommends adding cycling or swimming to help maintain body balance, strength and flexibility.

“Running is probably one of the worst activities to do consistently every day,” Lee says, “because it only works certain parts of your lower body in one direction — straight — and causes a lot of issues, such as overuse in the ankles and knees that are mainly strengthened on the anterior and posterior sides.”

“So many of us are constantly getting hurt and in pain that it becomes difficult to differentiate between what is a normal ache or pain and what needs more care and attention,” Wozniak says.

Wozniak takes care of some problems on her own by stretching, staying hydrated and using hot compresses or ice. But when her arm started turning purple and swelling, it was time to consult with Rush doctors. She was quickly diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which restricts normal blood flow to the arm. In her case, the condition was caused by overuse of her arms. She had surgery to have a rib removed in order to alleviate the problem.

Whether you’re a professional dancer or a recreational athlete, ongoing aches and pains are worth a consultation with a medical professional. “We have a knowledge of physiology and anatomy so we know what can be problematic and what can be ignored or pushed through,” Lee says.

Wozniak, who is 33 and has been dancing since age 7, is so passionate about dancing that she is motivated to do what it takes to maintain and improve the quality of her performance, but recreational athletes may not always be predisposed to work out consistently.

To improve the fun factor of staying fit, Lee suggests recreational athletes participate in a group sport such as flag football or a pick-up basketball league. “When you work out together there is the camaraderie of teammates working to achieve a goal,” he says.

Wozniak finds that camaraderie at the Joffrey. “We all care a lot about each other and support each other,” she says. “We’re like a family.”

Wozniak recently performed in a dance called “Body of Your Dreams” that spoofed the notion that quick fixes can help you effortlessly achieve the ideal physique. “I think people can get caught up in the trap of the importance of the perfect body image,” she says, “but you have to put things in perspective and find happiness and fulfillment in other ways.” And working out safely and preventing injury can help achieve that goal.

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Cycling 1,200 Miles After Two Hip Replacements

craig petersen.jpg

When recently asked how he’s doing, Park Ridge resident Craig Petersen, 57, answered, “slightly more than fantastic!”

Asked what elicits such a positive response, Petersen pointed to his rally back to competitive sports after significant hip pain and two total hip replacements. He simply feels grateful to have his life back.

A life-long athlete who enjoys playing tennis and golf at the Park Ridge Country Club near his home, he began to worry about keeping up with his regular activities, including playing with his golf buddies, when hip pain on his left side hit him hard.

“It got to a pain level of a 9 out of 10,” Petersen explains. “I actually dreaded just walking.” His golf handicap of 5.9 began slipping, as did his enthusiasm for being active.

Realizing it was time for medical advice, he visited a local orthopedic specialist who administered a cortisone injection. It didn’t work.  He tried another physician who also administered an injection and that didn’t work either. The second physician recommended he consider a hip replacement to properly treat his osteoarthritis and control his pain.

More than 400,000 hip replacements are performed in the U.S. each year. Like Petersen, an estimated half are under age 65.

Dr. Tad GerlingerPetersen was introduced to Dr. Tad Gerlinger, a joint replacement specialist at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, the #4-ranked orthopedic program in the country. Right away, they shared a common goal to get Petersen back to an active life.

The surgery was a success and with Dr. Gerlinger’s blessing, Petersen was on the golf course working to get his handicap back down just 39 days post-surgery. After accomplishing that, he began to feel a familiar pain in his other hip.

“I went back to see Dr. Gerlinger and asked if he could promise me the same results as the first hip surgery,” Petersen says. “He said ‘yes’ so I did it right away this time after the pain started.”

After a second new hip, he discovered a new sport to master:  cycling. “A friend suggested I try cycling, so I borrowed a bike and was hooked,” he explains. Petersen promptly bought his own bike and soon built up to longer and longer distances. This year, with two new hips from ‘Dr. G’, Petersen achieved one of his post-surgery goals and rode in the Ragbrai ride, a 430-mile cycling event across the state of Iowa. He chose to ride the last five days of the event during which he rode more than 300 miles at a rate of 60 miles a day.

His current goal is to ride 1500 miles in a 100-day period, completed by the end of October.  And, with an enhanced golf swing, his golf handicap is a solid 6.4. This is life after a double hip replacement.

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Going For Gold After Hip Replacement

Dana Potts Runner

Running isn’t just a hobby for Burr Ridge, IL resident Dana Potts—it’s an Olympic sport. Participating in the 100m, 200m, and 400m races in the U.S. Men’s Illinois Senior Olympics, Potts set a record in the 400m event and earned eight gold medals between 2014-2016.

With a track record like that, and goals for the future, Potts didn’t have any room in his training schedule for a painful setback.

Shortly after he set a new state record in the 400m dash, Potts felt a new sensation while visiting his daughter on her college campus.

“Emily and I were shooting baskets. I felt pain in my hip when I jogged over to retrieve the ball and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m just tired.’ But it didn’t get better.”

Potts assumed his pain was due to fatigue or over-training, but he wanted to be sure there wasn’t something more.

He went to see close friend and Midwest Orthopedics at Rush sports medicine specialist, Dr. Charles Bush Joseph, who examined him carefully, studied his MRI, and diagnosed Potts with advanced osteoarthritis in the hip.  He explained that a hip replacement was his best option for pain relief and recommended Potts see Dr. Richard Berger, who performs minimally invasive hip replacement surgery. Dr. Berger’s innovative outpatient procedure allows patients to leave the hospital the same day of surgery. Potts chose to move forward with this unique anterior approach that would not only minimize pain, but also provide a fast recovery.

During the exam, Dr. Berger diagnosed Potts with hip dysplasia, a condition in which the ‘ball and socket’ of the hip joint don’t fit together properly. This can gradually wear away the cartilage in the hip joint, often resulting in osteoarthritis.

Dr. Berger concurred that the best treatment for Potts was a hip replacement.

Concerned about his athletic future, Potts asked if he’d be able to sprint again. Dr. Berger looked him in the eye and replied, “If you were a sprinter before the pain set in, then you can be a sprinter once I get rid of the pain for you.” This was just the answer Potts was looking for and he began to feel confident about someday running his way to first place again.

Potts appreciated Dr. Berger’s minimally invasive, outpatient approach to surgery. He was intrigued by the fact that Dr. Berger’s patients begin walking the same day of surgery.  Dr. Berger explained that his technique eliminates the need to cut through muscles, tendons, or ligaments, allowing patients to get back to physical activities at an exponential rate.

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Potts’ hip replacement was a success and, as promised, he was walking and on the road to recovery the same day.  Just two days after surgery, Potts went back to work. After 10 days, he was walking on the treadmill. After one month, he played a little basketball. At six months, he was back on the track training.

With his new hip and the green light from Dr. Berger, Potts went on to win three gold medals (100m, 200m, and 400m) in the 2016 Illinois Senior Olympic Games. Potts didn’t have a doubt in his mind that he was going to lose.

“I felt very confident in my chances for winning,” he added, giving credit to Dr. Berger’s surgery, his dedication to physical therapy and his rigorous training exercises.

Today, Potts has retired from competing in the Senior Olympics, but continues to run and maintain his physical capabilities, ceaselessly testing to see how far he can go with his pain free hip.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Richard Berger, call Dr. Berger’s New Patient Liaison, Rachel Schiller, directly at 312-432-2557

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Division I Track Athlete Undergoes Cartilage Regrowth Treatment

jasmine smyles

Youngstown State University track team member Jasmine Smyles has been told many times that she has the perfect last name. Lately, this has proven true.

On a recent visit to see Dr. Brian Cole at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago, she was all smiles when Dr. Cole reported that her recovery from a brand-new treatment for knee pain was right on track.

A runner since age eight, Jasmine grew up training on less-than-ideal surfaces near her west side of Chicago home. Growing up, she also played basketball competitively, but decided to focus on running track in college.

One year into her track career at Youngstown State competing in the 200 and 400-meter events, she developed pain in her right knee. Like many determined athletes and just 19 years old, she assumed it was temporary and ran through the pain—for two years.

Finally, it became difficult to walk, much less run.

Jasmine’s persistent pain led her health care provider to order an MRI to further evaluate her knee. She was diagnosed with a localized area of complete cartilage loss, a devastating diagnosis for collegiate track runner. Determined to avoid a more invasive treatment, like a knee replacement, she began to do her research.

Finding a specialist

She searched ‘cartilage expert’ online and read about Dr. Brian Cole, a sports medicine surgeon and Director of the Cartilage Restoration Center at Rush University Medical Center. She was pleased to learn that a physician so knowledgeable about cartilage issues—and so familiar with high level athletes—was right in her back yard.

At their first meeting, Dr. Cole listened to her story and clearly understood her desire to run competitively again. He talked with Jasmine and her parents about options which included a clinical trial his team is leading using an innovative new procedure for knee cartilage regrowth. They were intrigued, so he further explained that in surgery, using a microfracture procedure, he would create tiny holes in the surface of the bones in her knee, so that her bone marrow cells would repopulate where her cartilage had deteriorated. A material called GelrinC would be injected over the microfracture and a UV light would be used to create a structure on which cartilage would grow.

Jasmine and her parents agreed to have her participate in the clinical trial and she underwent the microfracture/GelrinC surgery at Rush University Medical Center.

Now, three months post-surgery, Jasmine is walking pain-free and participating in regular physical therapy. She is looking forward to her six-month follow up at which time she will undergo another MRI to evaluate her progress.

She is all smiles when she talks about now being pain-free and perhaps one day running again.

Clinical Trial Information

If you have pain from cartilage loss in one or both knee and are interested in this clinical trial, call  (833) 519 9595. For more information, please visit

To enroll in the study, patients must be:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 50;
  • Suffering from knee pain but are not yet candidates for knee replacement;
  • OR already diagnosed with a cartilage abnormality and not yet a candidate for knee replacement;
  • Willing to undergo initial evaluation and imaging to determine if pain is caused by cartilage abnormalities;
  • Motivated to participate in the GelrinC microfracture study.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Brian Cole, call 877-MD-BONES or request an appointment here.

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