What to Do When You Get Injured

What to Do When You Get Injured

It was the end of class and we were doing petite allegro. The class was repeating the small jump combination all together to be sure everyone got it, and it was the second time on the left side. We were all sweaty and red faced from our efforts. Suddenly one of my students screamed and crumpled to the floor holding her ankle. She’d landed funny on her foot and now she was wincing in pain. I stopped the music as my assistant ran to get an ice pack. I gently eased off her shoe, elevated her foot, and applied the ice while another student cradled her head in her lap. Everyone looked stricken and a hush fell over the room. “Sit down”, I told them all calmly, “let’s talk about what to do when you get injured”.

Those who’d been injured in the past nodded wisely as I spoke, those who had not looked worried. I hoped my soothing tone would reassure them and give them some measure of peace. I am not a doctor, though one of my students is an Internist and another is an Occupational Therapist. I told them to correct me if necessary, but they didn’t interrupt, they all listened.

First there is R.I.C.E.:

1. Rest. When you are injured, first thing to do is stop dancing. (And get out of the way of other dancers as best you can.) The hardest thing about being injured, worse even than the physical pain, is accepting that you are hurt. Whether you have an acute injury like this one, or the kind that starts with a tweaky feeling and progressively gets worse, the sooner you stop and rest, and even seek medical assistance the sooner your body can start to heal.

2. Ice. Apply ice to the injured area as soon as possible. Ice helps to alleviate swelling and pain. An ice pack or some ice in a baggie are good on the go. When you get home, an ice bath – a bucket of ice and water – is more effective for relieving swelling. A package of frozen peas works okay too if that’s all you’ve got.

3. Compression. Bandaging the joint or affected area can help keep it mobilized and keep the swelling down. (Don’t wrap it so tightly you cut off your circulation though.)

4. Elevate. Raise the injured part to slow the blood flow to the area which will also help keep it from getting more swollen. Ideally if you can elevate it to the level of your heart, that’s the best, but do what you can.

Go to a Doctor

When you have an acute injury, it is important to rule out a broken bone and get an x-ray. While breaking a bone can heal in about six weeks, if you don’t take care of it, can take much longer to heal properly. Injuries to muscles, tendons and ligaments can take even longer to heal. That’s why it is important to recognize when you are injured and get help sooner than later. Don’t massage an area if it is swollen. If you have swelling and pain that isn’t getting better with R.I.C.E., go to a doctor.

Physical Therapy

When I’ve had injuries, physical therapy has been incredibly valuable. It takes time, but I have avoided surgery and friends say they have as well. A specialized therapist will release the muscles that are gripping and give you exercises to strengthen where you are weak. You will learn more about your body than you ever considered, and often wind up stronger than you were before the injury.

Soaking Hot to Cold

This is a method of dealing with injuries that can be particularly effective. You ice the injured area for about five-10 minutes, then you apply heat and you switch back and forth between the two. It is a very effective way to speed up healing.

Taking ballet doesn’t guarantee an injury, but neither does playing it safe and never dancing. You could step off a curb wrong or someone could step on your foot on the subway. Physical activity does come with some risks, but with every injury you learn more about yourself and your body and it allows you to understand and connect with other people’s pain. Connection is the way trauma is lessened, by knowing you aren’t alone.


I finished talking to the class, and they all thanked me and seemed relieved. The injured dancer was in good spirits and everyone offered to assist her. We helped her pack her things, and she called a friend. Various dancers took her bags for her as one heroic student carried her down the four flights of stairs on his back. (!) We all made the descent together and waited until her friend arrived. She was getting help. She was going to be okay.


Please see the Classes page for my current teaching schedule. I’d love to see you at the barre!

* Photo by Megan McNally. Dancer Claire Von Enck of New York City Ballet.


  1. Great advice, Sarah, but you know for the life of me I can’t imagine a ballet dancer sweaty and red faced, which goes to show that us mere mortals have no idea of the work that goes into that perfect production 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very timely article. I broke two metatarsals in my jazz class at DHT a month ago. Your story sounded very similar. I was doing a series of chasse turns, and landed wrong. A lot of us heard the crack. The class was very supportive and helped me to the side to sit. I was a bit in shock, but good spirited. They made sure that I elevated my foot, and a couple of people got ice. I didn’t have to be carried up the stairs, but one man helped my husband get me to the car. I’ve had to have surgery, but I plan to be back in classes as soon as the doctor and I feel it is safe. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Incredible story and advice! Thanks for sharing this story Sarah. You and the Liberated Movement team are the best at what you do. Warmly, Westley

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful! Thank you for this, Sarah. A huge shout out to good PTs. Took me from a herniated disc, to jogging again, in a year. What a great approach as an instructor. Must have been scary at first. Way to go.

    Anne Mironchik, MS, CCC-SLP in PA Learn more about my speech, swallow, voice, memory and language services at http://www.annemironchik.com http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/AdultSandL/ http://www.foxrehab.org/what-we-do/speech-language-pathology/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a former professional ballroom dancer ( now a studio owner) this is spot on. I will add that seeking some mental health counseling is a good idea if you have had a serious ( in my case career ending) injury. Dancers wrap a lot of our self worth in our physical abilities, and it is important to take care of your mental health when your physicality fails you.

    Liked by 1 person

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