Early Signs of Osteoarthritis in Professional Ballet Dancers: A Preliminary Study

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To investigate a cohort of professional ballet dancers for evidence of early signs of osteoarthritis (OA).


One radiologist and 1 orthopedic surgeon specialized in musculoskeletal disorders analyzed magnetic resonance imaging scans independently.


University Teaching Hospital.


Fifteen professional ballet dancers (4 males and 11 females; age range, 19-36 years) experiencing chronic pain in the hip, knee, spine, ankle, or foot joints.

Main Outcome Measures:

Presence of osteophytes, subchondral sclerosis, joint space narrowing, cysts, and bone marrow changes; the Kellgren and Lawrence scale was used to quantify the knee OA.


In the knee, there was thinning and irregularity of the articular cartilage over the medial femoral condyle and bone marrow changes within the lateral femoral condyle. In the hip, there was a loss of joint space and a frayed labrum with deep recess. The first metatarsophalangeal joint showed evidence of osteophytic development.


Early signs of OA, in different joints, were present in a small but highly selected cohort of professional ballet dancers. In future, prospective studies among a number of ballet companies should control for medical and natural history alongside the visual analysis of images and plain radiographs to confirm these preliminary results.

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