Our Performing Arts Medicine team consists of sports medicine primary care physicians, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists and athletic trainers experienced in dealing with the special needs of the performing artist.

We are trained in a number of treatment techniques, including manual therapy, dance-specific exercise programs and Pilates-based rehabilitation.

We treat a wide range of performance skill levels, from recreational to high school to collegiate to professional dancers. Our patients come from a variety of dance performance genres, such as ballet, contemporary, West African, liturgical and Irish. We also treat gymnasts, musicians, figure skaters and Broadway performers.

Specialists in dance medicine and rehabilitation

We are proud to be the primary medical providers for BalletMet ColumbusOhio State's Department of Dance and School of Music. Our services include on-site athletic training, physical therapy care, pre-season screenings, injury checks, wellness workshops and cross training classes.

A closer look at Performing Arts Medicine

Personal Care

Meeting the needs of every dancer

We provide personalized plans based on each artist's goals and insights to reduce injury risk.

If Your Career is on the Line

Pain can be easy to ignore

Gabriel Gaffney Smith shares his story, and how Ohio State Sports Medicine helped get back to his passion.

The Grand Jete

WOSU's Broad & High talks with BalletMet, physicists and sports medicine professionals to deconstruct the grand jete down to its barest essentials.

A Ballerina's Story

Our work from the perspective of the artist

BalletMet dancer Samantha Lewis shares life as a ballet dancer, both on stage and off.

It takes daily discipline for BalletMet dancer

12-hour snapshot of Jackson  Sarver points to rigors of crafting the body as a BalletMet dancer

Read more about the rigors of being a ballet dancer and how our team helps performers meet the demands of this art form

Our Experts Who Work With Performing Artists

Dance Wellness Screens

Dance Wellness Screens are exclusively designed to help the dancer understand more about his or her body and potential areas of further improvement to enhance performance and career longevity. The assessments are completed individually, with a summary and exercise packet specific to the results. Follow-up sessions can be purchased to have further instruction on your results and exercises. The screen evaluates:
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Leg, arm, foot and core strength and range of motion
  • Movement analysis
You would benefit from a Dance Wellness Screen if you:
  • Want to learn more about your body
  • Want to address known or unknown areas or weakness or faults
  • Have concerns about proper strengthening and stretching habits
  • Are preparing to increase training or performances
  • Have experienced a growth spurt
  • Have concerns about generalized chronic aches and pains that come with dancing
A Dance Wellness Screen is not meant for diagnosing and treating injuries. If you are concerned about an injury, see your physician instead and possibly follow-up with formalized physical therapy with one of our Performing Arts Medicine team members.

A Dance Wellness Screen includes an examination, results and recommendation education packet; no prescription is necessary. A one-hour individual session is $130.

Follow-up sessions are focused on continued education and guidance based on screen results (must be used within six months of the initial Dance Wellness Screen). A single 30-minute session is $60; three 30-minute sessions are $160.

Introduction to dance injuries

When injuries arise, many dancers are often unsure what to do. Important steps to follow when injury strikes include injury recognition, proper treatment, understanding what factors led to the injury and a progressive return to training.

Not every hurt is an injury. Minor aches and pains typically ease once the muscles warm up. Pain that persists, becomes more intense as you dance and is localized to a particular area is a warning sign to stop. If pain continues after dancing and for the remainder of the day, be cautious and initiate treatment phases. Additionally, watch for swelling at the site of injury – this is a sign of irritation and inflammation.

Overall, always remember that pain is your body’s way of warning you that something may be wrong. It's normal to feel an occasional ache or pain while dancing – don't be alarmed every time you feel a twinge. However, when this twinge doesn't resolve and becomes progressively worse, stop before you cause greater injury.

Once you recognize that you have an injury, initiate RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You must rest the injured area until you can resume pain-free dancing. Cross-training is an excellent cardiovascular option to maintain fitness as long as it does not cause symptoms in the injured area.

While you are recovering, analyze the reasons why you may have become injured. Causes of dance injuries can include abnormal anatomic alignment, poor training and technical errors – are you forcing turnout? Are your feet rolling in or overpronating? Do you suffer from muscular imbalances?

Unfamiliar choreography or style, and environmental factors including flooring surfaces and theater temperature, can contribute to acute and overuse injuries. Further, the female athlete triad of disordered eating, amenorrhea and low bone density/osteoporosis leads to an increased risk for stress fracture and injury.

Education programs

Educating the dancer is the first step toward maintaining wellness, preventing injuries and career longevity. Our team develops individualized workshops and offers education programs for the recreational and pre-professional dancer, including topics such as:
  • Anatomy and kinesiology
  • Core stability
  • Cross-training
  • Dance Wellness Screening
  • Foot and ankle class
  • Myofascial body release
  • Nutritional considerations for the performing artist
  • Onsite injury checks
  • Pointe readiness screening
  • Wellness and injury prevention for the adolescent dancer

Our research

In partnership with Ohio State's Sports Health & Performance Institute, our team conducts research to promote wellness in dancers. Through screenings and injury tracking, our research team has access to a diverse range of professional, collegiate, pre-professional and novice dancers across various genres, providing unique contributions to the field of performing arts medicine.

Making Pointe Count: Development of a dance wellness curriculum for high school credit

The typical pre-professional student dances up to 31.5 hours weekly. The intensity and difficulty increases during periods of rapid growth and there's a common belief that wellness education can help in injury prevention and career longevity. In collaboration with BalletMet Dancer’s Core Academic Program, our team developed a six-week curriculum that allowed students to receive high school credit for their dance education. In addition to the educational opportunity, it also provided insights for exploration of a career within performing arts outside of being a performer.

Multi-faceted turnout: Influence of Training Level, Measurement Method and Sex

Screening has become a recommended practice in dance medicine and injury surveillance can help identify causes of injury and guide preventative measures. Aspects of turnout and its measurement techniques have been examined and a relationship between turnout and nontraumatic injuries in dancers has been established. There's limited literature comparing turnout across level of dance training or by sex. Our research examined prospective cohort data from dance wellness screens. 

Our research sought to compare turnout using two measurement methods (rotation discs and floor protractor) to determine whether turnout differed by level of dance training or sex. Greater turnout angles were identified on the floor regardless of training level, when the friction of the floor may have aided positioning. Future analyses will aim to understand the relationships between injury risk and turnout asymmetries, across training level and dance genre.

Plié flexibility in dancers: differences between positions, measurement methods and limbs.

In order for dancers to perform plié, flexion of the foot (dorsiflexion) is necessary. Our research compared three different measurement methods: non-weight-bearing dorsiflexion, parallel plié, turned out plié to determine the measure method that captured the most functional ability as well as if the angle changed with age. In this study of 126 ballet academy students, we also found that dancers do not lose dorsiflexion overtime as previously found in another study. We also learned that the parallel plié position allows dancers to achieve greater closed chain ankle dorsiflexion than turned out plié and may be a more accurate reflection of their functional flexibility. Therefore it may be helpful in a screening or in the clinic to measure a dancer’s dorsiflexion angle in parallel plié so that you have a more accurate expectation of what their plié depth should return to during rehabilitation.

Iliotibial Band Tightness in Ballet and Modern Dancers

Ballet dancers train primarily in hip external rotation and abduction, while modern dancers use a variety of movement styles. Armed with the knowledge that illiotibial band (ITB) tightness is a predisposing factor for patellofemoral pain syndrome in ballet dancers, our research sought to examine and compare the prevalence ITB tightness in both populations. The analysis found 75% of modern dancers with ITB tightness had tightness bilaterally, and 59% of ballet dancers with ITB tightness had tightness bilaterally. The proportion of dancers with ITB tightness in at least one limb is significantly greater in modern dancers compared to ballet dancers. Results suggest that both genres of dancers may benefit from supplemental interventions to promote ITB flexibility, though modern dancers may benefit to a greater extent.

Why choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for performing arts medicine?

Expertise: We provide workshops and injury checks for the central Ohio dance community and provide regular onsite medical coverage for performing artists and shows, including:
  • A Chorus Line
  • Ailey II
  • American Idiot
  • BalletMet Academy
  • BalletMet Columbus
  • Buckeye Gymnastics
  • Buckeye State Feis
  • Columbus Movement
  • Dance Theatre Harlem
  • Flashdance the Musical
  • Fort Hayes High School
  • Les Miserables
  • Locality 2012
  • Mary Poppins
  • Gym Extreme
  • OSU Department of Dance
  • OSU Marching Band
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Rock of Ages
  • The Lion King
  • Wicked
  • Young Frankenstein

Industry Partnerships: We have partnerships with the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, the American Physical Therapy Association, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the National Athletic Trainers Association, OhioDance, the Ohio Physical Therapy Association and OSU Medicine and the Arts.

Research: As part of our extensive research study, “The Use of Screenings and Injury Tracking to Promote Wellness in Dancers,” our Performing Arts Medicine research team is utilizing a wealth of information collected over a span of years from professional, collegiate, pre-professional and novice dancers across various genres to provide innovative patient care.

Involvement in the Performing Arts Community: Our staff is developing research initiatives with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Labs in Life at COSI and the MAPS program within The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Sports Medicine program to further progress in the science of performing arts medicine.



Patient Success 

Abbey's Story

Abbey is an Irish dancer who has performed at the Irish Dance World Championships.   While preparing for competition, she sprained her ankle and sought help with our Performing Arts Medicine team.  Through the help of our experts, Abbey was able to recover in under three months and successfully compete in the World Championships.

Tara's Story

Tara has trained in many different forms of dance but has a special interest in tap dance. When she started experiencing back pain she went to Ohio State for physical therapy with the Performing Arts Medicine team. With the help of her physical therapist, Tara was able to get back to where she wanted to be pain free and back into competitions.

Katie's Story

Katie is an Irish dancer who went in for a dance wellness screen at Ohio State Sports Medicine after her sister broke her foot.  With the dance wellness screen, Katie was able to learn her weaknesses and work one-on-one with our physical therapist to build strength and prevent injury.

Subscribe. Get just the right amount of health and wellness in your inbox.