Why so many 'Dancing' injuries?

April 14, 2009 8:42:29 PM PDT
This season on "Dancing with the Stars," it seems injuries are becoming commonplace.As it turns out, injuries among dancers are not unusual.

It may look smooth and graceful on television, but all the twirls, jumps and slides can easily add up to painful problems.

Even before the show debuted, Jewel dropped out due to stress fractures. A knee injury knocked out tabloid TV hostess Nancy O'Dell.

Since then, Steve Wozniak, Steve-O, Holly Madison and even front-runner Gilles Marini have struggled with injuries.

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Local dancers say they're not surprised.

"Dancing is more strenuous than it looks," said competitive dancer Patty Underwood of West Chester, Pa. She has been dancing with her husband Bill for more than decade.

And, she's suffered a lot of injuries.

"I've hurt my ankle a couple of times. My knee, quite often, once a year, it flares up," Underwood said.

She's hurt her right shoulder more times than she can count.

"Every time I'm gesturing, it's always with that arm."

Instructor Sandra Fortuna says overuse injuries are common among dancers who practice for hours on end. She says adding a high-stakes national TV contest into the mix makes the stars push even harder.

"You're dancing with an emotional drive to win, to be successful and to look good and to please your teacher and to please the TV judges," said Fortuna.

Plus, she says, each season on "Dancing with the Stars," it seems the routines progressively get more difficult, which also sets the stage for injury.

Even for experienced dancers, just one wrong step can be all it takes to get hurt.

Dan Dehner of Wilmington, Delaware tore his meniscus while dancing. It's the same injury Nancy O'Dell suffered.

RELATED CONTENT: 6abc.com's "Dancing with the Stars" Channel

"I lost my balance and I did a "man correction" to try to fix it and I felt it, I felt it go right then and there," Dehner said.

Dan's now getting back into dancing shape.

Fortuna says some of the stars came into the show already close to dancing shape, like Melissa Rycroft. She's had some ballet training.

And that's what Fortuna says will help keep her healthy.

As for the others, the more they push and the more tricks they try, the greater the risk for injury.

But just like Dan, Patti and Bill, the stars are bitten by the dancing bug and despite pain, want to keep dancing.

Fortuna says talk of all the injuries shouldn't scare away dancing hopefuls.

She says if you'd like to try, start slowly and you should be fine.

By the way, Fortuna says it's a great way to get fit and make new friends.

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