Dancing Through Life without Missing a Beat

Celebrating Davenport North’s Wildcat spirit comes naturally to junior dance team member, Isabelle Sneath. Isabelle, 16, is in her third year on North’s Dance Team, a rigorous and athletic sport that requires hard work, practices at sunrise and sunset, and sustained enthusiasm for North’s fall and winter sporting events.

“I just love dancing,” smiles Isabelle, who has been kicking it since she was five years old. As she has grown, so has the squad’s increased skill in performing stunts that are spectacular crowd-pleasers. However, in her case, doing a back flip over a partner’s shoulder resulted in surgery and a new appreciation for the rigors of her sport.

A stunt goes wrong and Isabelle is injured

“We were doing a stunt in practice where alternating dancers would flip over on the line,” Isabelle recalls. “It was my turn to flip backwards when a partner on one side of me dropped me by accident. I tried to catch myself as fast as I could, but as I grabbed onto her, I felt my shoulder pull in and out of its socket.

“At first I was able to move my shoulder, but it hurt, even though I could move my arm. And, over several months of continued 6-hour practice days with both my dance team and private studio, my arm just kept getting weaker.”

Isabelle and her mother, both concerned with her ability to participate in the sport she loves, agreed that she pursue muscle-strengthening physical therapy. “That worked for a couple of months, but honestly, I was dancing so much I didn’t have time.”

In addition to performing with the Davenport North Dance Team, Isabelle enjoys performing tap, ballet, and jazz with her dance company. 

Shoulder dislocations are painful and require surgery

After nearly a year, ORA Orthopedics’ Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. Suleman Hussain, ordered an MRI when Isabelle complained of further, continual pain in front of her shoulder. “She said the pain was persistent and that her shoulder felt ‘loose.’”

Dr. Suleman Hussain, ORA Orthopedics

He says sensations of “looseness” or “dislocation” in the shoulder capsule (which is the lining of the shoulder joint) can be a symptom of stretched or torn tissue. “The capsule contains collagen that is stretchy like a rubber band: when it gets overextended, it stretches out, which explains why her shoulder felt ‘sloppy or loose.’”

Dr. Hussain performed an outpatient arthroscopic surgery to correct Isabelle’s instability and repair her torn tissue. “Inside her shoulder, I found and repaired a torn labrum. The labrum is a thick tissue that is attached to the socket that keeps the ball of the joint in place. The torn labrum was causing the pain and general instability.”

Injuries to dancers, gymnasts and cheerleaders are common

Dr. Hussain says Isabelle’s injuries are not uncommon, especially among dancers, gymnasts, cheerleaders, and other athletes who perform exceptional movements that raise and lift body weight. “These sports involve a significant range of motion causing tissues to tear and stretch. I’ve seen many serious athletes like Isabelle, who practice not just in school activities such as cheerleading or dance squads, but also compete in private clubs and studios.”

Isabelle’s rigorous six-hour-a-day practice regimen is demanding, and her sports are becoming increasingly gymnastic with high-performance stunts on year-round schedules, all stressing a young athlete’s musculature.

“Because these athletes are kicking, flipping, bending, twisting, as well as lifting each other into high mounts by standing on shoulders, all kinds of strains, sprains, tears, and fractures are common,” adds Dr. Hussain.

Following her surgery, Isabelle’s recovery has progressed by leaps and bounds. “I had to adapt by using one arm for a while, but my physical therapy was great and kept me on track. I attained my goal to perform at my year-end recital in June, and I danced!”

Back to dancing and back on the field – Isabelle is “kickin’ it”

Six months later and Isabelle is back to tap, ballet, and jazz dancing, all in addition to her pompon routines at Davenport North. “I am 100% better and ready for football and basketball games!

“I’m really doing great. I like teaching at my dance studio where I have been a class assistant for five years. I might want to teach in college, but as a career, I want to work with children and just dance for fun.”

At sweet 16 and dancing through life, Isabelle will be kicking it, no matter where her joyful enthusiasm takes her.