In her 12 years with the St. Louis Ballet company — during which time she danced many lead roles and rose to international acclaim — principal ballerina Tanya Strautmann had missed only one day of class and performing. So when hip pain forced her to take two days off in the Spring of 2008, she knew she had crossed the threshold from what she calls “good pain” into “bad pain.”
“Dancers always have aches, but as I tried to push through, I eventually knew that something was not right.” After the two days off, she returned to class and “couldn’t do anything,” she says.
Visits to several doctors were unproductive, primarily, she believes, because many physicians can’t fully appreciate the movement required of dancers. “A long-distance runner’s knee might be the most challenging case most doctors see,” but a much wider range of graceful movement is required of a ballerina, and treating a dancer “takes a special awareness,” she says.
Then Strautmann recalled a lecture she had heard by Devyani Hunt, MD, and her colleagues in the Medical Program for Performing Artists group at Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Hunt, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and a specialist in physical and rehabilitative medicine, also is a dancer. “She understands a dancer’s needs and speaks the language,” Strautmann says, “so when I say ‘developpe,’(a movement in which the working leg is drawn up to the knee of the supporting leg, then smoothly out into the air) she knows precisely the motion I’m describing.”
After X-rays ruled out arthritis and revealed that no bone had been fractured, Hunt suspected that Strautmann may have suffered a hip labral tear, an injury in which the ring of protective cartilage around the outside rim of the hip socket is damaged. Pain and limited range of motion are common symptoms of a labral tear, and athletes and dancers who engage in repetitive twisting or pivoting motions often are affected. Continue reading Tanya's story here
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