Apr 4, 2019, 3:48:17 PM CDT Aug 20, 2019, 10:16:29 AM CDT

Specialized dance therapy helps a young ballerina pursue her dreams

After an ACL injury, Addison found collaborative support at Children's Health Andrews Institute

Addison Addison

Addison lives and breathes to dance. As an eighth grader, she began a trainee program with the elite Joffrey Ballet School, often dancing from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day to advance her art and passion. She's also been an ambassador for Brown Girls Do Ballet® for the past four years, empowering others to reach their goals as well.

Over the years, Addison has faced her own share of setbacks due to a wide range of health issues. Yet she meets each challenge with the grace and strength one would expect from a ballerina. And with the support of the experts at the Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Addison is as determined as ever to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional dancer.

Addison finds her place on stage

As a baby, Addison suffered from frequent ear infections and severe balance issues, which compromised her hearing and hindered her from walking until she was almost 18 months old. But when she turned 2 years old, she discovered a video series aimed at teaching young children the basics of ballet – and was immediately hooked.

"She wanted to watch the videos over and over, and mimic each and every move without taking a break," says Addison's mom, Tammy. "She soon began begging for dance classes, and once she started, she never looked back."

While Addison's interest in ballet was surprising, given her balance and hearing challenges as an infant, Tammy says it was quickly clear it was a natural fit.

Addison"Addison has always failed the balance test at doctors' offices through the years, yet she overcomes those issues in dance," says Tammy "Because her hearing is compromised, most of her learning comes through her visual skills, which often means she can learn a new dance quicker than many people."

Over the years, Addison continued to dance, competing amongst elite ballerinas and eventually received a scholarship to train with Joffrey Ballet School in 2017. By September 2018, Addison had grown leaps and bounds as a dancer. She had also been fitted with hearing aids over the summer, and was excited to begin her second year as a Joffrey Trainee.

"Addison felt so strong, and her confidence had really exploded," says Tammy. "With the improvements she had made over the past year, she began working toward her goal of auditioning to train in New York City in the summer."

However, during a rehearsal in October 2018, Addison's knee buckled as she landed from a Russian Leap.

"Everyone who heard her knee popped feared the worst outcome," Tammy says.

Specialized care supports Addison's ambitions as a dancer

Addison was referred to Children's Medical Center Plano where she was introduced to Troy Smurawa, M.D., a pediatric sports medicine specialist, and Dustin Loveland, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the Children's Health Andrews Institute. An MRI confirmed her worst fears: Addison had torn her ACL and her meniscus in two areas and needed surgery.

"It really was a tough blow for Addison to finally be past her illnesses and doing so well and then so quickly have an injury that would take her out of this entire dance year," Tammy says.

Addison working on PTAfter determining the best surgical approach to support her recovery, Dr. Loveland used a portion of Addison's front knee tendon to form a new ACL. Four days later, she began physical therapy with Jennifer Kieschnick, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at the Children's Health Andrews Institute.

Over the next several months, Addison worked to rebuild the strength in her leg through cycling, aquatic therapy, weight training, dry needling and other therapies.

"Psychological confidence can hinder a patient's return to their sport as well as place them at risk for injury if it is lacking," says Jennifer. "Knowing this, we incorporated dance-specific exercises as early as six weeks post-op to help Addison overcome any fear of performing on her leg while we also assessed the appropriate muscle and movement utilization throughout each stage of her recovery."

By February 2019, Addison was ready to begin an individually-tailored dance rehabilitation program with Holly Nieman, MS, an athletic trainer at the Children's Health Andrews Institute who specializes in dance therapy.

Addison working on dance PTIt should come as no surprise that Addison was very excited to get back out on the dance floor.

"Addison always comes in with a smile on her face, even on the tougher days," says Holly. "As with any athlete recovering from an injury, we go back to basics and begin retraining and strengthening the foundation skills that will carry over to more advanced movement in the future. For a dancer, the foundation skills begin at the barre so Addison and I worked through barre exercises together to establish what restrictions she should still be working under, and most importantly, what movement she could work on outside of physical therapy. Addison has made great strides in her recovery, and I look forward to seeing her perform on stage in the future."

Though Addison is focused on her recovery and return to the Joffrey program, she never misses an opportunity to encourage others who may be facing their own hurdles.

Addison"Dance has always been about Addison feeling and giving joy to others," says Tammy. "After her surgery, Addison immediately wanted to be encouraging and helpful to other kids."

In addition to using social media to connect with other athletes dealing with injuries, Addison spends a significant amount of time talking with other patients during her rehab sessions, learning about their stories and supporting them during many major milestones in their journeys.

"It's just who Addison is," says Tammy. "She understands it's what we all need to do in this world – to be there for each other and to help each other in times of need."

Learn more

The Dance Sports Medicine program at Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is specifically tailored for the treatment, rehabilitation and injury prevention of dancers to help them get back on their feet. Learn more about our comprehensive sports medicine programs and services.

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