Ballet Strength on Alex Wong’s Injury

A photo of Alex gives me great insight as to where his injury prone areas may be.

My heart was broken last night watching So You Think You Can Dance for Alex Wong, an extremely talented dancer who captured the dance world’s attention this season. I’m not an avid So You Think You Can Dance viewer, but I do catch the show about twice per month. Being that Alex was a ballet dancer and had left his position with Miami City Ballet to be on SYTYCD, there was quite a story and a passion behind his presence on the show. It kept me watching…

As a Ballet Strength and cross training coach for dancers, I immediately started to think of ways that this injury might have been prevented. Gorgeously arched feet and super tight calves like Alex’s usually mean short Achilles Tendons in my experience working one on one designing plans injury prevention plans for professional dancers. (I could go into more details about his anatomy, but I’ll spare you.)

In my spare time this morning I did my best to find out how Alex Wong “ruptured his Achilles Tendon” to further investigate how something like this could have been prevented. Had his spring nearly sprung? Is it the result of improper technique? Or did he merely land wrong? The articles that I found were quite vague in their description of the incident so I am hoping that there will be more to come in the next few days.

My next thought: was Alex in pain prior to the Achilles rupture? Did he have chronic Achilles Tendonitis, a nagging long-term injury that some dancers suffer with their entire careers? Many dancers push through injuries in order keep their status in companies thinking that the injury will heal itself and get better. Us stubborn dancers think that we can change the reality that rest is the only thing that will truly heal an injury.

In my ballet summer studies at Chautauqua I remember hearing stories about New York City Ballet Dancer Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux rupturing his Achilles, but I don’t know for a fact if he returned to dancing after the injury. I am confident that Alex will dance again.

I guess my message in this blog post is this: Dancers, be smart. Take risks, but don’t risk your career thinking that you can triumph over pain. You cannot mask injuries. Trust me, it will bite you in the behind. Not to say that I know 100% that this is the reason for Alex Wong’s injury, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it may be the case. Hopefully more details will be available to the public soon.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein Professional Ballet Dancer/ Author/ Fitness Expert

About Nikol Klein

Nikol Klein is former Professional Ballet Dancer turned Women's fitness expert. She currently works with Women all over the world as a personal trainer and Ballet Strength coach to dancers.

Posted on July 9, 2010, in Ballet, Ballet News, Ballet Strength, Dance, Dance Reviews, Injury Prevention, Strength Training for Dancers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. As a ballet teacher I agree with what you are saying in your article. Achilles tendonitis effects most dancers at some point in their lives and could have very well been the case with Alex.
    I wonder if he will speak candidly about his injury?

  2. I am a retired engineer and I enjoy watching So You Think You Can Dance. While watching I have to suppress my growing dissatisfaction (over my lifetime) with the results of extreme competition which programs like this promote, usually with a subtle secondary message that competition is the way forward for all human endeavors. This type of competition is promoted in spite of the fact that all great human advancements have been based on cooperation, with only minor tweaks provided by competition.
    Back to dancing, as a casual observer of this program I have often wondered rather contestants are being pushed too hard, so I was very interested in your blog. Naturally dancers have to take responsibility for their own health, but should not the choreographer also have some responsibility? (As a side note, the wearing of high heels both by the host and the performers has to be considered an abominable attack on human anatomy at the highest level, which I am surprised, is accepted by professionals.)
    In addition to the emotion of the music and movement another enjoyable feature is the display of the dancer’s athletic ability. Many of our so-called professional athletics could not match this raw ability. Again, these young dancers are also way ahead of the power curve in showing true sportsmanship (compared to many professional sports-persons) as indicated by the cooperative nature of their dance; and their sensitivity to other contestants, choreographers, and fans.

    • Thanks for your feedback. Competition is definitely a part of life in the dance world. From an early age we are forced to stand in front of a mirror and nit-pick our weaknesses and compare ourselves to other dancers. The way you interpret this will determine your fate or ability to rise above the competition. This is why so few dancers survive the transition between being a student and being professional. Even at the highest level where ranks are established competition is evident between co-workers.
      On a positive note, the competitive nature of the sport does transfer over to later life in other professions. Dancers and former dance students thrive in any post-dance profession they choose as they are always striving for the best and putting in hard work with the best integrity. (this is one of the good things that I took from my experience listening to a seminar from “Career Transitions for Dancers.”)

      • I did agree that competition provides a minor tweak, however in the big picture, the slight competitive achievement of getting from a developed human to a professional dancer is dwarfed by the cooperative endeavor of getting from a single cell to a cultural human.

        But, my question was, do you think these young dancers are pushed too hard, and does the choreographer have any responsibility in preventing injuries?

    • Physical Therapy Student/Dancer

      After seeing two more dancers injured in subsequent episodes, I think William points out an interesting aspect of the show…the responsibility of the choreographers in injury prevention (there is so much crazy high jumping that results in landing on their thighs/knees that I’m surprised more knee injuries haven’t resulted). But I also think that it’s important for the dancers to know their bodies and do what’s best for themselves…although it may cost them the competition.

      I was actually glad to see Billy Bell this week sit out, even though the doctors cleared him. He listened to his body, and took care of himself. If he had danced without being 100%, who knows what could have happened. Even if there was no medical reason for him to sit out, he obviously felt like he couldn’t do his best without risking further injury. I’m glad he didn’t get sent home as a result.

      I think healthy competition is great…I know I always have silent competitions with other students in my dance classes to better myself as a dancer. Competition allows for growth. But when that growth is then stalled because of too much stress/pressure/injury from the nature of the competition, then it isn’t worth it.

  3. Physical Therapy Student/Dancer

    Just curious…what makes you think he has “super tight calves”? On that episode of SYTYCD they aired the rehearsal footage showing when his injury occurred, and it was after landing the 3rd or 4th consecutive toe touch. He had insane height on the jumps, so I’m guessing it was just landing incorrectly, like when the Olympic volleyball player (can’t remember her name) ruptured her Achilles on Dancing w/the Stars a few seasons back.

    It is possible that he had tendinitis prior to the injury, but in the clinic I’ve worked in, most, if not all of the Achilles rupture patients did not have tendinitis prior to their tendon rupturing. It’s definitely not a prerequisite to the injury. Achilles ruptures are also more common in men than women…I don’t think anyone knows why, but that’s what I’ve always heard/read. Most of the ruptures I’ve seen have been crazy accidents – stepping into a hole, a fall, etc.

    All that said, there can never be too much said for injury prevention and proper warm-up/stretching. However, I honestly believe this was just a freak incident that couldn’t have been prevented. I, too, definitely think he’ll dance again…he has too much passion, dedication, and talent to let this be the end.

    • Thanks for your feedback! It is always great to hear opinions from other professionals.

      I think we’re all looking forward to Alex’s triumphant return to dance!

  4. One of my co-workers snapped his achilles last season and it was one of the most horrific things I have ever had to witness in a rehearsal. This dancer had suffered 2 ankle sprains in his time with the company and I often wonder if he let them heal properly. He also always complained about his ankles. It was a freak accident at the time it happened but was obviously caused by his ankle injuries. A dancer doesn’t just land wrong from a jump unless their is a weakness or overcompensation from an injury Or from bad training?

    • Physical Therapy Student/Dancer

      You would be surprise. A good friend of mine and dancer tore a ligament in her metatarsals during a pirouette during ballet class. It wasn’t poor training or a the result of not letting another injury heal properly (she had never previously injured her foot)…it was just one of those things that happened for no apparent reason. Dancers land incorrectly all the time, and it’s not necessarily bad training or overcompensation. Weird things happen beyond our control all the time. Adrenaline kicks in and we push ourselves too hard – go for that extra height, try to do one more jump/turn than we probably should try, and sometimes we pull it off and sometimes our bodies don’t cooperate. And sometimes doing completely routine things go awry. I have another friend who tore her ACL landing a side leap she’s done many times, and she never had any previous knee injuries. Somethings are beyond our control no matter how rested/healed we are, how careful we are, or how good our technique is.

  5. hanna med school student/dancer

    Also will be important to know if he was taking meds. One antibiotic can’t remember which one can cause Achilles Tendon rupture for not apparent reason.

    • Physical Therapy Student/Dancer

      Sulfa-based antibiotics weaken the tendons and can cause ruptures…it happened to a patient at our clinic. Note to self: don’t take them unless you absolutely have to.

  6. Houston Soloist

    Good post, Nikol. I totally agree with your theory. Maybe Billy Bell read your article!

  7. Cure of tendon injuries is essentially practical. Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications coupled with Physical Therapy, rest, orthotics or braces, and moderate return to workout is a common therapy. An acronym used to list the remedial treatments in fixing tendinitis is “RICE”: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. Resting assists in the prevention of further injury to the tendon. Ice is effective at soothing pain, restricting too much swelling, and stimulating blood circulation after the fact. Compression and elevation both perform similarly to ice in their ability to restrict excessive, unnecessary inflammation.Initial recovery is commonly within 2 to 3 days and full recuperation is within 4 to 6 week.Visit my site to learn more about achilles tendonitis treatment

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