On Oct. 2, I noticed there was something really wrong with my knee. I had some previous pain and tenderness that had gone away, but this was different. After only an hour and a half of ballet my kneecap had blown up to about twice its original size.
This really sent me into panic mode. I had a dance performance on Oct. 4, so I couldn’t just stop dancing. I consulted with my dance teacher, we decided I should RICE it before the performance, and see how I felt after that. After the performance I thought my knee was feeling good enough to dance, so I did.
I danced for two days before my knee swelled up again. That’s when me and my mom agreed we needed to get this checked out. Thankfully, I was able to get into the orthopedic sports medicine clinic 10 days earlier than I originally was supposed to.
On Oct. 15 I was put into the ugliest red basketball esque shorts and posed for x-rays of my knees. Let me tell you, looking at pictures of your own bones is a little freaky. It felt like me and my mom were sitting alone in that room alone just staring at those pictures forever. I kept wondering if I broke my kneecap, tore a muscle, or some other horrible thing. Finally, Dr. Degroote came in to examine my knee.
He glanced at my x-rays. “Looks normal,” he said. That debunked my broken kneecap theory.
After asking me how long this has been happening he had me lay on the examination table. He pushed on the protruding lump on my knee and bent my knee joint a few times.
“So, it looks like you have jumper’s knee,” he told me. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean for me. What is “jumper’s knee”? How did I get it? Can I dance? Can I do Nutcracker?
“What do I have to do?” is all I could manage to ask.
“For how long?” my mom frantically asked.
“In three weeks I’ll see you again. Until then, no dance. Rest, stretch, take anti-inflammatories as needed. At your next appointment we will decide if you can start physical therapy.”
To catch you up I’ll explain what in the world jumper’s knee is. Jumper’s knee, or patellar tendonitis, is inflammation in the patellar tendon (which connects the patella to the shin bone). This condition weakens your tendon and can cause tears which may lead to surgery.
The doctor said if I take care of my injury now, then I shouldn’t need surgery. He told me I could start dancing again when it stopped hurting. This is when I began wondering all the negative ‘what-ifs’ again. What if it still hurts in 3 weeks? What if I dance and it happens again? What if I do everything he tells me to do and it doesn’t get better?
“You’re an injured athlete now,” he said. “So from now on, you have to warm up extra before you start dancing.”
I’m an injured athlete now. I’ve danced for 14 years without any real injuries. Sure I’ve twisted ankles, strained muscles, and even lost toe nails. But I have never hurt myself to the point where I couldn’t dance for weeks. I’ve seen several dancers around me get injured growing up, but I thought that I would get through my time at KTB mostly unscaved.
I only have to take 3 weeks off, so I thankfully can still do Nutcracker. It’s such a relief to know I am able to do my last Nutcracker performance, but taking time off does worry me a little. I can’t do much beyond core and glute workouts otherwise I’ll put too much stress on my knee. I fear I’ll lose a lot of stamina during my time off.
I miss seeing some of my closest friends every day after school. It feels weird to just go home after school every day instead of to the studio. You’d think I would be grateful to have some space and time to do my homework, but instead I’m eagerly waiting to get back into my normal routine.
Even though this experience sucks, it’s teaching me a lot. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that even if I’m doing everything right things can still go wrong. I was in the best shape of my life, I was improving every day, and I pushed myself just enough but never too much. Sometimes things like this come out of nowhere. There’s good days and there’s bad days, but I know that it’s best to stay positive in situations like this.