Conservative Management of Second Metatarsophalangeal Joint Instability in a Professional Dancer: A Case Report

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Case report.


Professional ballet and modern dancers spend an inordinate amount of time on demi pointe (rising onto their forefeet), placing excessive force on the metatarsophalangeal joints and putting them at risk of instability. Surgical treatment of this condition is well described in the literature. However, studies describing conservative management, particularly in dance populations, are lacking.


A 33-year-old dancer presented with insidious onset of medial arch and second and third metatarsophalangeal joint pain. Functional deficits included the inability to walk barefoot, perform demi relevé, or balance on demi pointe. Imaging studies revealed osteoarthritis of the first metatarsophalangeal joint, second metatarsophalangeal joint calcification, capsulitis, and plantar plate rupture, leading to a diagnosis of instability. The dancer underwent a treatment program that included taping, padding, physical therapy, a series of prolotherapy injections, and activity modification.


The dancer was seen for a total of 37 physical therapy sessions over the 16-week rehabilitation period. At the time of discharge, the patient had returned to full duty and performed all choreography with taping and padding. Repeated single-leg jumps and turns on the right foot, however, still caused discomfort. At her 6-month follow-up, the dancer's total Dance Functional Outcome Survey (DFOS) score had improved from 16% to 86%, and her Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) physical scores improved from 24 to 47. One year after discharge, the dancer reported pain-free dancing with no taping or padding.


This case report describes early diagnosis and a multimodal treatment approach in a professional dancer with significant disability secondary to metatarsophalangeal joint instability.


Therapy, level 4.

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