OBJECTIVE: To investigate a cohort of professional ballet dancers for evidence of early signs of osteoarthritis (OA). DESIGN: One radiologist and 1 orthopedic surgeon specialized in musculoskeletal disorders analyzed magnetic resonance imaging scans independently. SETTING: University Teaching Hospital. PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen professional ballet dancers (4 males and 11 females; age range, 19-36 years) experiencing chronic pain in the hip, knee, spine, ankle, or foot joints. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Presence of osteophytes, subchondral sclerosis, joint space narrowing, cysts, and bone marrow changes; the Kellgren and Lawrence scale was used to quantify the knee OA. RESULTS: In the knee, there was thinning and irregularity of the articular cartilage over the medial femoral condyle and bone marrow changes within the lateral femoral condyle. In the hip, there was a loss of joint space and a frayed labrum with deep recess. The first metatarsophalangeal joint showed evidence of osteophytic development. CONCLUSIONS: Early signs of OA, in different joints, were present in a small but highly selected cohort of professional ballet dancers. In future, prospective studies among a number of ballet companies should control for medical and natural history alongside the visual analysis of images and plain radiographs to confirm these preliminary results.
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