If you are among those dancing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes, knowing why ballet technique is the way it is will help you prevent ballet injuries. Healthy knee function is not possible without healthy foot function. Also, in learning how to prevent knee injuries, understanding the function of the foot, knee, hip and spine connection is useful, at least in a general sense.
The knee joint is engineered beautifully. It has ligaments to prevent too much movement in any given direction, and a shock absorber as well, the meniscus behind the kneecap, or patella.
Classical ballet, and other athletic activity involves sudden change of direction, twisting, leaping, and sudden starts and stops.
Fortunately in ballet, we have turnout to assist us with these factors.
If our turnout is not strong, there is risk to the knee joint.
If our posture is incorrect, in the low back and core area, there is risk to the knee joint. Crunched and chronically tense rotator (turnout) muscles, quads (thigh muscles), hamstrings (back of thigh muscles), result from an incorrect pelvic position. This leads to nearly all the other muscles involved in ballet technique, ballet positions and ballet movements, being held in tense positions, instead of being fluid.
While tension is needed to dance ballet, tension should be fluid. The years of repetition in ballet training should result in the reflexes needed to constantly increase and release tension.
Think of your favorite ballerinas and leading male dancers. One of the observable qualities to their dancing is the effortlessness. They make it look so easy. You don't necessarily think of pillars of strength, although they are very strong. You can feel their fluidity when you watch them in difficult roles such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote and other classics.
So, back to the knee joints - ligaments and shocks are in place. We have turnout to make the best use of them.
Foot strength is a major factor. A high percentage of the general population pronates, that is, allows their feet to collapse toward the inner side, when they walk, run, dance, whenever their feet hit the ground.
Proper posture, use of turnout muscles, correcting hyper-extended knees placement, if hyper-extension is present, and strengthening of the intrinsic (exclusive to the foot) muscles can compensate for this factor and prevent knee injuries.
Knowing how to relax muscles after hard work, for instance with a pinkie ball, is a needed element in ballet training, as well. Not many ballet students have the time or opportunity to get regular massages. But hard working muscles must get relaxed, and must be given recovery time, neither of which factors are typical in ballet training.
If you are involved in ballet training and have ANY pain or persistent soreness in your knees, see a professional. A chiropractor, or physio-therapist with experience in dance or sports injuries will help you.
Also ask your ballet teacher to watch the finer details of your posture, turnout, and foot placement on the floor. These factors are never isolated. Educate yourself as well, with the expertly written dance manuals that are now available to anyone on the internet. The Perfect Pointe Book will give you the details you need to review your ballet technique in all the ways that it affects your knees.
Eat a healthy diet to support your ligaments and muscles. You will be able to prevent knee injuries and enjoy your dancing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes.