Dancing Through Life: Overcoming an ACL injury as a dancer

By: Anabelle Scarborough on Dec 6, 2019
Photo Courtesy of Rainey Scarborough (2018)

“you love it so much, you’d risk anything to do it again”

For my sister Rainey Scarborough, the spring of 2018 will forever be one to reflect and grow upon. After a strenuous week rehearsing and preparing for the NYDCA dance competition, Rainey entered dance class as she always does. Except this time she’d leave a little bit differently.

“My knee went out and I ended up on the ground”

The tear

Rainey ended up tearing her Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL) after doing a fouette turn rehearsing one of the pieces for the upcoming dance competition. According to Slade (2016), 70% of ACL tears are non-contact injuries meaning these are caused when the foot is planted to pivot or change direction, but the ACL ligament tears away from the bones instead. The fouette turn (“to whip”), is a turn that is highly common in multiple styles of dance, originating with ballet. The fouette turn happens when the knee plies (bends) and straightens while the other leg rotates around this standing leg into passé. This greatly reflects the “non-contact” definition of ACL tearings, however you more frequently hear of ACL tears occurring in sports such as soccer rather than dance.

Mechanics of a Fouette Turn- Sophia Gallucci (2017)

How does being a Female have anything to do with ACL tears?

Furthermore, ACL tears are significantly higher among female athletes than men. Studies show that females, based on their anatomy are 4-8x more likely to tear their ACL’s than men. According to Orthop (2016) “smaller femoral notches have been associated with an increased rate of ACL injuries”. Women biologically have smaller femoral notches than men. Orthop also mentions how women’s hormonal and menstruation cycle have an effect on ACL tear trends. This was an uncontrollable contributing factor toward Rainey’s Injury.

Looking on the bright side

” injuring yourself takes one second but recovering from that injury that took a second takes a whole year”

Rainey had been dancing her entire life. Now, she was required to not dance for 6-8 months (which ended up taking over a year for her recovery time due to invasive surgery). Rainey revealed how difficult it was to not be able to pursue her passion for a period of time. She tore her ACL about a month before her senior recital in high school which was one of the most important events for her. Instead of giving up, Rainey decided to choreograph a dance piece for fellow dancers to perform in. She realized that if she couldn’t physically dance, she could mentally create a piece that would bring her equally as much joy. The show ended up being a success and Rainey continued down the path of physical therapy for the next year.

Today, Rainey is back to dancing like she never stopped. It took long hours of recovery, therapy, and perseverance but she is back where she was almost 2 years ago and even happier than she was before.

Never. Give. Up.

Orthop, J. “The Female ACL: Why Is It More Prone to Injury?” Journal of Orthopaedics, Elsevier, 24 Mar. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4805849/.

Slade, Kim. “The Facts Behind ACL Tears.” The Micheli Center, 13 Feb. 2016, www.themichelicenter.com/the-facts-behind-acl-tears/.

“Female ACL tear” infographic: Anabelle Scarborough
“10 things to know about ACL tear” source: National Athletic Trainers Association