Published in Dance Magazine
Pointe work increases the forces placed on a foot by up to 12 times their body weight and prepubescent bones are more vulnerable to injury. “Is a 9-year-old more at risk for premature growth plate closure than an 11-year-old? Yes, possibly. That’s the bottom line,” says Dr. Selina Shah, a sports medicine physician who treats dancers in Walnut Creek, California.
In 2017, Shah published the first reported case of premature growth plate closure from dancing on pointe in a 13-year-old who had begun pointe work at age 10, resulting in a visibly shortened second toe. “It may be more common than we realize,” Shah says. “I don’t think it is something to worry about, but I do think it is something to be aware of.”
Shah is not inclined to give an age for beginning pointe. Rather, she says, it is about evaluating a combination of factors. “It depends on their technique, strength, postural control, flexibility, maturity to handle corrections and listen to what the teacher is saying,” she says. “It also depends on how the introductory pointe class will be structured.”