Ballet Austin - Michelle’s Surgery Diary #1

Tomorrow afternoon one of my dear friends and fellow dancers is undergoing one the the scariest things a dancer can face — Surgery.  Michelle Thompson, like myself, is in her sixth season at Ballet Austin (not counting her two seasons with Ballet Austin II) and is the epitome of the “go-getter”.  You can ask her to try anything in that ballet studio and she will, with a smile beaming across her face.  I think that relentless enthusiasm is what has made it so hard to watch her trying to dance in so much pain and try to sort out what was going on in her foot.

I approached Michelle just days before her surgery and asked her if she would be willing to do a series of “Diary” style entries tracking her surgery and progress back to the studio and onto the stage.  As all of us learned about Michelle’s situation we were astonished at how many dancers have had the same condition and surgery.  In fact my brother-in-law (who trains at PNB) had this same surgery on not one, but both feet just last year.  Also what was so astonishing was the amount of support and experience sharing that went on as Michelle researched the surgery.  She was hearing from ballet companies and dancers around the country who were willing sharing their experiences and offer insights.

I want to point out that we are in no way offering any medical advice.  As always, if you have an injury, please see a doctor!  We just felt this was a good way to “pay it forward” after all the wonderful support and stories that have been shared with Michelle these past few months.

I’ll share some pictures, but the rest of the story I’ll leave for Michelle to tell….

Michelle Thompson in Waltz of the Flowers

Michelle Thompson in Waltz of the Flowers

Original Xray of Michelle's foot which only showed a "shadow" and led to the MRI

Original Xray of Michelle's foot which only showed a "shadow" and led to the MRI

MRI of Michelle's foot, with the broken off bone circled.

MRI of Michelle's foot, with the broken off bone circled.

“Hi, my name is Michelle Thompson and I am a dancer with Ballet Austin. My friend and Winger girl, Anne Marie, has asked me to share with you some very interesting and hopefully informative knowledge about my recent predicament. I would like to invite you to learn about my injury, my surgery, and hopefully my successful and full recovery. I have an injury known as Os Trigonum Syndrome. There are different variations of the injury, but in my case part of the bone on the back of my Talus (I think that is the right name) has broken off. So, there is a piece of dead bone hanging out in the back of my ankle. Also, where the bone has broken off there is a jaged edge. When rising on to pointe the bone becomes lodged and prevents me from getting over my box (think finger in a door jam… the door will not close all the way). So after x-rays, MRI’s, three doctors, a cortisone shot, and performing on pointe in a great deal of pain, I decided that removing the bone with surgery would be my solution. Dancing in pain is one thing, but when a girl is not over her pointe it is also ugly and wrong. Pain+Ugly+Wrong=Bad News and No Fun.

Once I started seeing doctors, talking with dancers, working with physical therapists, and doing research online I realized that this is a very common injury for dancers. This definitely relieved a little bit of my anxiety. People all around me started to share that they had the surgery or their brother or friend had the surgery. These people became an excellent resource for me, and I am very appreciative of their knowledge. I agreed to Anne Marie’s idea mainly because I hope to help other dancers the way all of these resources have helped me.

I was able to perform in our March/April show because it was on flat (I have pain when I am on pointe), but I will miss Cinderella (which Ballet Austin is performing in May). The positive aspect of missing the performances is that I will have that much more time to get better before our season starts in August and I will also be preventing further damage to the area. The research I have found is that recovery is any where from 2 to 4 months. I hope to share my progress with all of you.

I went on a beautiful run today taking in the sunshine and the dirt trail. It will be a little while before I can be active on my feet, and I am trying to get as much fitness and activity in as I can before the surgery. I have only one more day until my surgery. The first 10 days I will be in a hard cast. I will report to you as soon as I am feeling up to it. My choreography is being performed 2 days after my surgery so I am hoping I will be with it enough to enjoy those moments. Wish me luck and if you have any advice or words of encouragement let me know.


Michelle  “

Merde tomorrow Michelle!!!


  1. Michelle B.

    Hope all goes well with the surgery Michelle! I am keeping you in my prayers, and hope all who are doing the same will help to lift your spirits. Those I have known that have been sidelined due to injury almost always come back with a new appreciation and vigor in their art….something to look forward to!
    Take care

    Apr 15, 2009 @ 13:02

  2. A.M.

    I hope all goes well and you have a speedy recovery!

    Apr 15, 2009 @ 14:10

  3. K. S.

    I had a young student have this surgery at the beginning of February. Her bone was still attached and she had been having problems for about a year and a half. Her recovery has been quite remarkable! She was on crutches for about a week. She did have intensive PT. After about 3 weeks she began barre work in a lower level class. By mid March she had worked up to full class in her regular level. Monday, April 13th she began pointe work. It looks like she will be fully recovered in about 1 more month.
    Good luck!

    Apr 15, 2009 @ 14:37

  4. Max

    Hi, I don’t know you but I really wish you luck on your surgery, and a speedy recovery!


    Apr 15, 2009 @ 17:01

  5. Debbie

    Thanks, Anne, for sharing about Michelle. Michelle, we’ll be praying for your full recovery.

    Apr 15, 2009 @ 20:33

  6. Lindsay

    I will be praying for you as you recover from surgery. You are a beautiful dancer and have always been an inspiration to me and to other students. Hope to see you up and about this summer!!

    Anne Marie,
    Thank you so much for sharing!! I would not have known otherwise and now I have a place to direct many prayers.

    Love, Lindsay Sockwell

    Apr 15, 2009 @ 22:13

  7. bill

    Good luck Michelle! I had Achilles tendon surgery (not quite what you’re having) about 3.5 weeks ago and am getting my cast off tomorrow. Recovery is a little tedious but really not too bad - hope yours go very very smoothly.

    Apr 16, 2009 @ 13:35

  8. Karen

    I’ve been research os trigonum surgery and can’t find any information on how to find the best surgeon for this surgery. Do you have any suggestions on how to find a surgeon who is experienced specifically at this procedure?

    Jun 18, 2009 @ 01:37

  9. Michelle

    Hello Karen,
    I would love to help. I know three good surgeons in Austin that might be able to recommend some one depending on where you want to have the surgery. I think looking for a surgeon who has worked on athletes would be good. Many dancers, soccer players, gymnasts, and others like this have this as a common injury. The three doctors I saw were all orthopedic surgeons and they had a specialty or a great deal of experience with feet and ankles. Here is my email if you want to get those doctor’s names or talk about anything. michelle.ulerich [at] gmail [dot] com

    Thank you for contacting me through the winger,
    Michelle Thompson Ulerich

    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:07

  10. Michelle

    Thanks everyone! I appreciate all the prayers and well wishes. Things are going really well. I sent my next entry to Anne and it should go up any day now.

    I hope your recovery is going well.


    Jun 21, 2009 @ 15:09

  11. Mellie

    I had an os trigonum removed in April and am feeling very frustrated due to lack of mobility and range of motion. My foot also continues to ache. How long did it take to regain full motion in your foot and how long did it take before it felt like they had actually removed the bone? Thank you so much.


    Jun 09, 2010 @ 04:49

  12. Michelle

    Hello Mellie,
    Sorry to hear that you are having pain. It definitely took a little bit of time for me to get my range back. The only pain I felt was the scar tissue breaking up which is normal. I did not have the feeling that the bone was still there after my surgery. My surgery was April 15th and I was back to pointe work and jumping by July and then I started back to work doing swan lake in August. Check out the other diary entries, because I talk through some of my exercises and icing is your best friend. How long were you in a boot or cast? You want to be stabilized for a little bit, but you don’t want to be stiff for too long, because you need to get the scar tissue moving. I was in a cast for 10 days and then I moved to a walking boot, but still used crutches for 2 or 3 weeks. I did a ton of PT, but always listening to my limits and not going beyond. Definitely check out the other posts and see if they help you. I can give you my cell phone number if you want to chat.


    Jun 10, 2010 @ 22:34

  13. Mary Russo

    Go see Dr. Frederick Buechel in South Orange NJ
    He is world renowned and just absolutely awesome….

    Feb 06, 2011 @ 00:17

  14. Chase Stuart

    Hello Michelle,

    I was just curious how your foot/ankle is doing since having your Os Trigonum removed almost 2 years ago. I am considering having this surgery done as well and am trying to weight the risk benifit ratio.

    Thanks, Chase

    Apr 02, 2011 @ 14:31

  15. Daniela Sanchez

    Hi Michelle,

    I’ve just read your article and it has inspired me a lot. I had surgery 2 weeks ago of the same bone and reading your article has encouraged me to go on. I’m also a professional ballet dancer and I’m looking forward to heal soon and continue dancing.

    Thanks, Daniela

    Aug 03, 2011 @ 01:54

  16. Sam

    Hi Michelle,my 14 year old daughter has had os trigonum surgery 2 days ago.She is at a vocational ballet school.Have you got any tips/advice you could pass on to her please?And how is your ankle and dancing now?Kind regards Sam

    Oct 02, 2011 @ 18:38



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