Toenail avulsions are a real concern to dance populations and can be very prevalent, especially in ballet dancers whose toenails, in particular, take a huge beating. Even in modified ballet shoes it is impossible to reduce the total force going into the region.
What you need to know
Avulsions occur from blunt trauma which can occur from kicking an object or the floor, getting caught in footwear when on point. Trauma to the nail itself can stop new nail cells from growing for as long as 3 weeks and therefore healing may be slow. From here nail growth accelerates for around 3 months and during this time the nail may appear thicker than usual, but that is normal.
Figure 1 Shows the anatomy of the toe nail and nail bed
There are grades of injuries to the toe nails, and if the germinal matrix (figure 1) at the base of the nail is damaged or lacerated it is possible possible the nail will not regrow. If the nail is still attached then keeping it in place is essential to give it the best opportunity to heal. As it heals the new nail will push from underneath and lift the nail naturally until it falls off.
It is essential for dancers to take care of their feet, and keeping an eye on them for a build up of trauma is essential to maintain health of the nail and nail bed. Because there are few things more annoying than when a nail based injury stops you from performing.
Avoid wearing nail polish As it can hide any signs of trauma and potentially weaken the nail
Keep feet clean Important to clean your feet daily and not
Cutting nails Keeping nails short and avoiding cutting into the corners
If you are concerned or want to learn about optimising your foot health, you should contact a chiropodist or podiatrist.