DWTS Dancer Mark Ballas Sidelined After Re-Aggravating “Compressed Disk” Injury

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If you watched Dancing With the Stars this week and thought you were missing something (or someone), you weren’t alone. Thousands of fans noted the absence of professional dancer and two-time show winner Mark Ballas on Monday night after he suffered a potentially serious lower back injury during rehearsals earlier in the day. His unfortunate twist of fate left partner and UFC fighter Paige VanZant to pair up with replacement DWTS troupe member Alan Bersten, causing more than a few fans to do a “double take” when the two hit the stage for a their scheduled salsa dance.

While we don’t know the specifics of Ballas’s latest injury, reports are that he “re-aggravated” an earlier problem – and we do have idea of what that could have been. Three years ago, the former Junior Olympic gold medal winner sustained a lower back injury involving “two compressed disks” while practicing a lift maneuver for the show. Then in mid-2014, he apparently suffered whiplash and “more back injuries” in a car accident. Either injury may have made the star athlete somewhat more susceptible to hurting himself again – especially if, as his dance partner noted, he hadn’t had a chance to warm up properly before performing the maneuver that resulted in him lying on the floor in pain.

Compressed Spinal Disks

Most likely the “compressed disks” to which news reports have referred were actually herniated (or “slipped”) disks rather than vertebrae that sustained a compression fracture when Ballas was first hurt in 2013. While compression fractures usually occur due to osteoporosis in the upper (thoracic) spine or violent trauma, herniated disks are extremely common injuries in the lumbar region, especially in people with physically demanding jobs who put a great deal of stress on their backs each day.

Disk compression, or herniation, happens when the outer layer of the sponge-like disk that acts as a cushion between vertebrae flattens and/or ruptures so that part of the disk’s jelly-like interior protrudes beyond the bone, potentially pressing on other structures. The result can be shooting sciatic pain down the legs, muscle weakness and chronic back pain at the location of the compression. While managing this condition starts with conservative treatments, disk surgery in the form of a minimally invasive decompression procedure such as a microdiscectomy is sometimes required.

Most patients who receive a microdiscectomy will not have a recurrence of problems from a previously herniated disk – but it’s unlikely that Ballas actually had the surgery when he was first injured. Instead, he probably was treated with first-line, nonsurgical measures like physical therapy and pain management injections. If so, there’s a possibility that the same disks that were at the root of his previous problem are now bothering him again.

Looking Forward

Dancing With the Stars devotees already knew that being a top-rated ballroom dancer takes a huge amount of hard work and dedication. With Ballas’s latest back problems, we now also understand that it can take a pretty substantial toll on one’s future spine health.

As for whether Mark Ballas can return to his 18th season with the show, only time will tell whether the 30-year-old dancer, singer, songwriter, choreographer, musician and actor has to step back from the first of his many talents and watch from the sidelines as DWTS continues. We’re certainly rooting for him to come back strong and steady!

If you have chronic back pain that’s keeping you from pursuing the activities you love, the Spine Health Institute in Altamonte Springs, Fla., offers comprehensive diagnostics and treatment options to get you back on your feet. Led by world-renowned spine specialist Dr. Chetan Patel, we focus on the least-invasive and most effective treatment options for each patient. Call Call407-303-5452 for an appointment or click on the Book Online button at the top of this page.


Inside Mark Ballas’ Dancing With the Stars Injury: ‘I Didn’t Think We Should Do the Trick,’ Says Piage VanZant (3/29/2016). Retrieved from People.com: http://www.people.com/article/mark-ballas-dwts-talks-injury

Mark Ballas Injures Back Again, May Not Perform on “Dancing With the Stars” (3/28/2016). Retrieved from GossipCop.com: http://www.gossipcop.com/mark-ballas-back-injured-injury-2016-hurt-dancing-with-the-stars-paige-vanzant-dwts/

Compressed Disc Surgery (n.d.). Retrieved from LaserSpineInstitute.com: https://www.laserspineinstitute.com/back_problems/disc_surgery/types/compressed/

When Back Pain is a Spine Compression Fracture (n.d.). Retrieved from Spine-Health.com: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/osteoporosis/when-back-pain-a-spine-compression-fracture

Mark Ballas (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia.com: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Ballas

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