Move over, tennis elbow, you've been replaced as the in injury these days by disco foot.
Disco foot is the sports injury of the moment, according to New York podiatrist Dr. Joseph C. D'Amico, first to bring this new medical entity the attention it deserves. Unheard of five years ago, it is limping its way to prominence as a new orthopedic disease.
Now that stiletto heels have gained a foothold, disco foot may become a nationwide epidemic.
Disco foot includes sprains, strains, broken bones and bursitis caused by disco dancing, said D'Amico, chairman of the division of orthopedics at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. Dance injuries make up a quarter of the 60 sports injuries he sees a week, and disco dancing is behind the increase, he said.
The trouble is, people forget that disco dancing is a sport, said D'Amico - "the only sport you can get into where you try to trip yourself up." Instead of sensible equipment, he said, disco dancers seek out the clothing and conditions best suited to lead to injuries.
Look at the risks, he said. Slippery dance floors. Four-inch heels. Dance steps that require you to plant one foot and pivot around with the other. Alcoholic beverages. All of them, said D'Amico, are designed to put maximum stress on the poorly designed human foot.
"For people that have a tendency toward foot problems," he sighed, "this can just kick it off."
After all, the foot is an evolutionary failure to begin with, D'Amico said. Its bones have not kept pace with the transition to erect posture. "If they built buildings like us, every building would look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa," he said. "Everybody is off by a few degrees."
But some people are more "off" than others, he said, and under the demands of disco dancing they sprain ankle tendons, develop inflamed fluid-filled "bursas," or pouches, even suffer painful "stress fractures" of foot bones.
Women get disco foot twice as often as men, which D'Amico blames on high-heeled shoes that decrease stability and concentrate weight on a small area. He said the ideal dance shoe should fit "like a piece of skin," have a heel with a large surface area, and springy sole. "Wood heels and hard-rubber heels don't do much for shock absorption," he said.
He also recommended a warm-up program for disco enthusiasts: Walk, do not drive, to the disco. Rise on tip-toe 10 or 20 times. Demand a foot massage before dancing.
If a dancer follows this advice and still can't get out of bed Sunday morning, D'Amico recommends seeking professional advice. Her feet may be trying to tell her something.The normal 16-to-35 year old "should be able to take a moderate amount of dancing without major rehabilitation in the next few days," he said.