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A Day in the Life of an Athletic Trainer for the Orlando Ballet

March 30, 2016

As children, many little girls dream about being a ballerina. I’m fortunate enough to be a part of it with them.

As a certified athletic trainer at Orlando Health, I get to work with the Orlando Ballet, since the hospital is the dance company’s primary medical provider. Just like soccer and football players, ballet dancers are athletes, too, and need help maintaining their most powerful instrument — their bodies.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to train a talented, world-class performer, here’s what I can tell you.

There’s a Different Training Approach for Ballet Dancers

I like the ballet because I get to use a different part of my brain. I have history working with non-traditional athletes, which is a particular challenge on its own because you have to think so differently when it comes to working with them. You’re not going to put tape or a big brace on ballet dancers because you have to think about what’s happening onstage and consider the artistic part their jobs in order to tape them and stretch them.

It’s a Constant Learning Process

My work with the Orlando Ballet begins early in the week — often before I even see a patient. I get emails from our physical therapists who are currently working on dancers and they give me a heads up on any concerns, ongoing treatments and injuries. If they are doing taping or customized treatment, I will learn it so that I know what to bring. This helps us give the dancers the best possible care.

I Always Carry a Kit

I always make sure that I have my “Orlando Ballet Kit.” I do have a regular training kit, but for the Orlando Ballet I also have ballet and dance medicine tools and supplies that are non-traditional. I don’t bring a bunch of tape and band-aids because I need specialized tape (skin-colored kinesio tape) and other items that are customized for each patient.

I typically show up 15 to 30 minutes before the dancers’ call so I am there when they arrive to care for them. I also touch base with the artistic staff to see what their needs for the dancers are or if anything may have changed.

I’m in Awe of How Hard These Dancers Work

As far as working with the dancers, I’m in my second season with them. In the eight performance weekends I’ve worked so far, I’ve seen different dancers each time. Sometimes they need a simple tape job and just need tape applied. A lot dancers come in just after barre warm up and get additional stretching. They need additional mobilization, so massage and stretching complements what they do at the barre. Every now and then, I have dancers who come in with a new injury or a new ache and pain, so I do an initial evaluation to determine if they can do what they need to in the performance. Men, especially, want to know that they can do lifts. Physical therapy does a lot of the prep work ahead of time, so it’s just a matter of what they may not have had covered in between their last physical therapy session and when they see me.

I Get a Front-Row Seat

I’m there to help the dancers stay healthy and make sure they can perform at their best, but it’s still exciting to see what they do.

I watch from the seats to make sure nothing major happens during the performance. It’s very rare that something does, but I will go back with the artistic director to do an initial review and treatment. For new injuries, we refer dancers to physical therapy or orthopedics. After the performance, I stay around for about 15 minutes to make sure everything is alright and then head home for the night.

So, that’s my day in a nutshell. It’s exciting to see these athletes perform, but it’s more thrilling to enable them to do it. My role is a small component of the whole process, but I feel lucky to be a part of it.