News Blog

Dance Rehab Keeps Teen En Pointe

A headshot of patient Cate Bashore
Cate Bashore

When Cate Bashore fractured her foot in May last year, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

The 17-year-old dancer was getting set to apply to colleges in the fall and needed to submit an audition video with her applications.

“I initially thought I thought it was a sprain, but a couple weeks later it still really hurt,” Bashore said.

With application deadlines quickly approaching, Bashore and her family turned to the Dance Rehabilitation program at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC) for help.

The program, which aims to return dancers to their optimal level of performance, is led by specially trained physical therapists with expertise in the unique needs of dancers and an understanding of biomechanics, physiology, and dance-specific movement. Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital offers a similar program.  

“We try to help dancers regain their range of motion, strength, and movement control after an injury,” said Allison “Alli” Jackson, PT, a physical therapist and board certified orthopaedic clinical specialist with the Dance Rehabilitation program at PMC and former ballet dancer. “My goal as a physical therapist is to help keep the dancer moving and dancing as healthfully as possible so they can dance as long as they want.”

Dance-Related Injuries Common

A close up image of a ballerina's shoes on pointe

The complex movements and physical demands of dance can lead to a range of injuries, with the feet and ankles bearing the brunt. In fact, more than 50 percent of dance-related injuries occur in the foot and ankle, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.

What’s more, research shows that dance-related injuries requiring emergency room visits were on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association, increasing by 22.5 percent from 2014-2018. The study also found that dance-related injuries were four times higher in females versus males and most often occurred between the ages of 10 and 18.

Fractures like the one Bashore experienced are common among dancers. In fact, they are so common that they are often referred to as dancer’s fractures. These fractures to the fifth metatarsal — the long bone that connects the outside of the foot to the little toe — typically happen when a dancer lands awkwardly on the outside of their foot or twists their ankle.

“Cate is naturally really strong,” said Douglas Martin, co-founder of the Martin Center for Dance, where Bashore currently studies. “It’s a blessing, but it can also be a hinderance if you use that power and something goes wrong,”

For dancers, like other athletes, injuries can affect their performance and, in many cases, upend their lives.

“When you’re injured and you can’t dance, there’s a big gap in your life. You’re also worried about when you’ll be able to dance again. You need a physical therapist who understands the demands of dance so you can recover properly and return quickly — and safely — to performing.”

Other common dance-related injuries include ankle sprains and stress fractures, which may happen from too much repetitive impact to the foot, which causes the bones to weaken.

“An Amazing Program for Dancers”

Bashore was just 3 years old when she first took ballet classes at her family’s local YMCA.

She enrolled at Princeton Ballet School, the official school of the American Repertory Ballet, when she was 5, and has since performed a wide range of roles in ballets including Don Quixote, Swan Lake, and the Nutcracker. Today, Bashore practices ballet as well as contemporary dance with the Martin Center for Dance.

“Dance has always been an escape for me,” said Bashore, who rehearses six days a week. “It gives me a connection to myself, to the music and rhythms. To be able to move my body and express myself in a different way is very fulfilling.”

When she fractured her foot last spring, Bashore had been rehearsing for a performance in June that she was forced to miss and had been planning to make her audition video over the summer.

Instead, she spent the summer rehabbing with Jackson at PMC.

“It’s really an amazing program for dancers,” Bashore said. “It was very personal and each week we would progress and try something new. When I was able to get back in pointe shoes it was the best feeling in the world.”

For her part, Jackson said success stories like Bashore’s are why she decided to become a physical therapist.

“The greatest joy in my profession is being able to see my dancers back in the studio and performing,” Jackson said.

Bashore’s father, Todd Bashore, said he is thankful for the Dance Rehabilitation program at PMC, especially because his daughter connected so well with Jackson, who can speak a dancer’s language.

“Dance is a great artform, but there are injuries,” he said. “We’re lucky to have people like Alli around who can keep Cate dancing.”

Bashore returned to dancing in the fall and completed her audition video in time to submit with her college applications.

She will graduate this month from West Windsor Plainsboro High School North and will attend Emory University in the fall. She is contemplating a career where she can combine her love of dance with the business side of the arts.

“As long as I’m healthy, I will continue to dance,” Bashore said.

You Might Also Be Interested In...

About this Blog

This blog is written and produced by Penn Medicine’s Department of Communications. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive an e-mail notification when new content goes live!

Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

Health information is provided for educational purposes and should not be used as a source of personal medical advice.

Blog Archives


Author Archives

Share This Page: