Children's Hospital Colorado

Caroline: Staying on Pointe Despite Scoliosis

In most sports, staying on point requires focusing, keeping your eye on the ball, concentrating on the prize. In the ballet world, staying on “pointe” has an entirely different meaning. Ballerinas who dance on pointe must support all of their weight on the tips of their toes while balancing on a small block of cardboard in their shoes during pirouettes, leaps and more.

It’s no surprise that pre-professional ballerina, 15-year-old Caroline Cappelletti dances more than 30 hours a week to perfect her skill. Tap, jazz, ballet and modern – she does it all.

Dancing is definitely one of the hardest sports,” says Caroline. “You have to use all of your muscles while thinking about where your head is, where your feet are and staying properly aligned, while also thinking about how you’re performing.”

Unfortunately Caroline started experiencing severe back pain in 2013. She was diagnosed with surgical scoliosis, an abnormal curve in the spine that often appears as a child is experiencing a growth spurt. If left untreated, this scoliosis could have inhibited Caroline from dancing.

Treating Caroline’s scoliosis and getting her back on stage

Following her diagnosis, Caroline’s pediatrician referred her to the Spine Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado where a team of multidisciplinary pediatric experts supported her through spine surgery and recovery.

“At Children’s Colorado, your healthcare is the number one priority, but knowing that you’re going to be able to do what’s important to you is also important,” says Caroline.

For Caroline, ballet is a priority and her pediatric spine surgeon Sumeet Garg, MD, knew it. He was determined to have her back on the dance floor in time for her to dance in the Nutcracker that year.

The Way Back for Kiana

“Career-ending” – that was 18-year-old Kiana’s initial diagnosis when her back spasmed so severely that her muscle protruded two inches from her left side. But, for this competitive swimmer, career-ending was not an option.