Making Leaps and Bounds in Recovery After Hip Apophysitis

While attempting an enormous leap during a dance rehearsal, 16-year-old Elise landed incorrectly on her left leg and felt searing pain. She was immediately rushed to urgent care.

“We thought that she had a fracture,” explained Elise’s mother, Stephanie. “But actually, it was a severe muscle strain from the pelvis into the hip.”

Dreams of Dancing

Elise, who recently completed her junior year of high school, has been dancing for most of her life. She started taking classes at age 4 and has since studied a range of dance styles including ballet, contemporary, Horton, tap and acro. She dances 20 to 25 hours per week and is in contract with two dance companies.

A few years ago, Elise was invited to participate in Alvin Ailey’s Summer Intensive program. “[It] is a dream of hers to be in that company as a dancer in the future,” Stephanie said.

Elise at physical therapyFollowing her urgent care visit, Elise had an appointment with Keyur Desai, M.D., CAQSM, a primary care sports medicine physician at the Fight For Children Sports Medicine Center at Children’s National in Silver Spring, Md. “The environment is more child-focused and child-targeted, so I think that gave her a sense of ease,” Stephanie said of the center. From that initial appointment, Dr. Desai recommended crutches and rest, followed by physical therapy.

Building Strong Relationships 

“When Elise first came to me, she was able to walk and move around without pain but was still experiencing pain with basic dance positions and moves,” said Nathalia Conover P.T., D.P.T., Elise’s sports physical therapist at the Fight For Children Sports Medicine Center.

Elise dancing ballet“Elise built a very strong relationship with Nathalia,” Stephanie said. It helped that Nathalia also had a background in dance and the arts. She understood the fears and apprehension that Elise felt about returning to dance.

At first, Nathalia worked with Elise to improve the stiffness in her hip. Then they focused on improving Elise’s hip and core strength and stability to prevent this type of injury from occurring again. 

“As her therapy progressed, Elise slowly improved her strength and stability in basic dance positions like pliés and développés,” Nathalia said. “Gradually, she started working on jumping and leaping. After a little more than five weeks of physical therapy, Elise was able to return to dancing – stronger, more confident and more aware of how to care for and protect her body.”

In addition to physical therapy, Nathalia also provided Elise with the emotional and mental encouragement she needed. “It was really hard to keep her spirits up because she wasn't dancing,” Stephanie said of her daughter.

“Injuries for so many of our young athletes, like Elise, are disappointing and challenging on so many levels—physically, emotionally and mentally—especially when their injury limits them from performing the sport/activities that they are so passionate about,” Nathalia said.Elise dancing ballet

A Full Recovery 

Now back to dancing pain-free, Elise recently competed at the New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA) national competition in Orlando, Fl., where she was awarded a $32,000 scholarship towards college tuition.

“I am extremely grateful that I had an amazing team of people in the sports medicine department that not only made sure I recovered from my injury, but that I also had the tools to continue to strengthen my body and prevent future injury,” Elise said.

Patient Stories

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