Dr Ian Beasley discusses his role as medical adviser to the Royal Ballet

Dr Ian Beasley is a consultant of sports medicine working at BMI The London Independent and Blackheath Hospitals. We recently caught up with him to discuss his role as team doctor to the England team, but this time we discussed his role as medical adviser/officer to the Royal Ballet and got his advice on common injuries in ballet. You can also find Dr Beasley at BMI Healthcare’s Blackheath Sports Injury Clinic.

Can you tell us about your role as medical adviser/officer to the Royal Ballet?

I have been working at the Royal Opera House for nine years now and hold a clinic there once a week. I also advise on governance and work with a wide multi-disciplinary team (MDT), which is also involved in planning research. Injuries are an important issue in performance and I hold a clinic with one of the physiotherapists at the Royal Opera House, using a diagnostic ultrasound to help guide management.

I was appointed Head of Medical Services for the Football Association, which included arranging care for all 24 teams that the FA run. This was on top of all policy work and medical advice for the professional and ‘grass roots’ game, so concussion guidelines, cardiac screening and pitch side care all came under my umbrella.

Ian Beasley

Dr Ian Beasley

Sports Physician 

MBBS, MRCGP, MSc, Dip Sports Med, FFSEM(UK)

What are the most common injuries you come across in ballet dancers?

Unlike football, injuries occur more by overuse than trauma. 

Ballet dancers work incredibly hard, both on and off stage, so overuse is more commonly the culprit.

Stress to bone is something that can be mitigated by careful load management, nutrition, and vitamin D monitoring.

Ballet dancers

How do you help the ballet dancer’s players overcome their injuries?

Our MDT includes highly skilled physiotherapists, Pilates specialists, strength and conditioning specialists, a nutritionist, and an expert psychologist. The performer is their focus, and they bring to bear all their expertise.

There are expert ballet teachers and coaches to help the dancer get back their performance, movements, patterns and correct postures; it’s a total team effort at the Royal Opera House.

What are the worst injuries you have you had to deal with?

The worst, in my opinion, are anterior tibial stress fractures. We see two or three per year, and although they are not career threatening, they take a long time to heal, and are a source of great frustration.

How can dancers treat minor injuries themselves or avoid them in the first place?

Minor injuries should be treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation as normal.

I would advise that the dancer have an initial assessment of the injury by a physiotherapist or doctor who is used to seeing dance injuries.

Most of the time, enough advice can be given to ensure the dancer gets over the injury.

Total avoidance is impossible, but to reduce injury, warm up; including stretch is essential. The Internet is full of stretches that are useful. It’s worth pointing out that many dancers are hypermobile

Why do you think ballet dancers get so many injuries?

Male dancers often dance into their mid-forties

This deprives them of the sunlight necessary for vitamin D production and can put their bone health at risk. 

They have a high energy output profession, but maintaining intake is sometimes difficult given their busy schedule.

Ballet dancing as a career is incredibly hard work, and most dancers will push through pain, where a lot of us would not; being en pointe is not really normal posture after all. 

Nutrition is very important and most dancers rehearse and perform indoors.

How long is a ballet dancer's career?

I have seen female soloists at the Royal Ballet Company at almost 50-years-old, but this is unusual. Male dancers often dance into their mid-forties and most females also dance to near this time. It boils down to how well the body manages the load over the years..

Can you share any interesting stories during your time with the Royal Ballet Company?

I think the similarities between ballet and football are more striking than the differences. I’d also say that elite dancers are the same mentality as elite footballers.

Injuries are the bane of their lives, and threaten something they have worked for since they can remember. I recommend rest, ice, compression and elevation as first aid, then I would see a physiotherapist. You can seek advice on the diagnosis and the stages of recovery and rehabilitation.


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