Medical Problems of Performing ArtistsMedical Problems of Performing Artists

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Toe Flexor Strength, Flexibility and Function and Flexor Hallucis Longus Tendon Morphology in Dancers and Non-Dancers

K. Michael Rowley, Danielle N. Jarvis, Toshiyuki Kurihara, Yu-Jen Chang, Abbigail L. Fietzer, Kornelia Kulig
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 30 Number 3: Page 152 (September 2015)

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Abstract: Tendinopathy of the flexor hallucis longus (FHL), colloquially referred to as "dancer¿s tendinitis," is a common condition in dancers and attributed to high demand on this muscle in positions of extreme ankle plantarflexion and metatarsophalangeal (MTP) flexion and extension. Despite such a high prevalence, there has been little research into preventative or nonsurgical interventions. As a means to identify potential targets for prevention and intervention, this study aimed to characterize toe flexors in dancers by measuring strength, flexibility, function, and FHL tendon morphology. Dancers (n=25) were compared to non-dancers (n=25) in toe flexor isometric strength, first MTP joint range of motion, foot longitudinal arch flexibility, balance ability, endurance during modified heel raises without use of the toes, and FHL tendon thickness, cross-sectional area, and peak spatial frequency. Significant differences were found in functional first MTP joint extension (dancers 101.95º, non-dancers 91.15º, p<0.001), balance ability during single-leg stance on the toes (dancers 11.43 s, non-dancers 5.90 s, p=0.013), and during modified heel raises (dancers 22.20 reps, non-dancers 28.80 reps, p=0.001). Findings indicate that dancers rely on toe flexors more than non-dancers to complete balance and heel raise tasks. Efficacy of using this modified heel raise task with the toes off the edge of a block as a means to train larger plantarflexors and as a nonsurgical intervention should be studied in the future. Improving interventions for FHL tendinopathy will be impactful for dancers, in whom this condition is highly prevalent.

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