Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers get world-class treatment from UPMC doctors



PITTSBURGH - Gabrielle Thurlow is always on her toes, spending eight hours each day practicing ballet or rehearsing with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

"It's pretty amazing. I get to do what I love every day," she said.

But with all of the pirouettes and leaps come some aches, bruises and broken bones.

"I thought I had tweaked my ankle but later in the day it got really swollen and that's when I knew something was wrong," Thurlow said.

Thurlow had a broken toe and needed surgery.

That's where Dr. Freddie Fu and the physical therapists at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine come in.

"They can have torn ligaments. I have seen Achilles injuries. I have seen shoulders dislocated, even some concussions," said Fu, the chairman of Pitt's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

This marks the 30th year that Dr. Fu and the staff have been providing medical care to the dancers.

They're at the theater for every rehearsal.

"It's all about helping them be the best performers and artists that they can be," said UPMC physical therapist Erica Coffey.

That helps comes not only with treating injuries but also preventing them with early screening exams, therapy and massages.

"A lot of times my calf will be really tight and Erica will do a massage on it to release the muscles and that helps to release the tendon," said Thurlow.

She said the medical care ensures she is at her peak when performing.

"When you're the healthiest, that's really when you can put your best product on stage," Thurlow said.

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's production of "Moulin Rouge" opens at the Benedum Center Thursday night and runs through Sunday.