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Stress fractures cripple dance pupil

A 17-year-old former pupil of the Dance School of Scotland in Glasgow fears she may never dance again after suffering stress fractures to both legs. Laura Thain of Barrhead near Glasgow had high hopes of a career as a professional dancer. She is on crutches while her injuries heal.

The sixth-former dropped out of her course at Knightswood Secondary in April after complaining about pain in her shins that kept her awake at nights. Her GP referred her to Professor Iain Boyle at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary who arranged a bone scan.

Laura said:" I have got repetitive stress fractures in both legs and have been told to rest."

Problems began 18 months ago when Laura was referred to the school's physiotherapist who recommended exercise to strengthen her upper body. She says the headteacher told her that "some of the pain was in my head". Earlier she had been told to lose weight if she wanted to take part in the Christmas show. "My periods stopped for six months because I had lost so much weight by not eating properly."

During the school week Laura boarded with other dance pupils at St Andrew's College, Bearsden. By the time they returned for an evening meal at almost 6pm they had to make do with what was left by students and other boarders.

She said: "Sometimes we didn't bother eating or just had mashed potatoes. Lunches were an apple or just a piece of fruit or a dry roll maybe with crisps and dinner was whatever was there or was left."

Her grades began to suffer with the onset of her physical problems but she received little support. "I was dropped like a hot coal and told to go to the back of the class. If you got an injury they didn't really want to know because you were a problem child."

Laura claimed that students felt under pressure if they missed classes since they were told it would take two weeks to get back to where they left off. "You are apprehensive about telling about injuries. What really bothers me is I was telling the dance staff that I had problems and they just advised me to see the physiotherapist."

Laura rarely leaves home and has to use a wheelchair at the local supermarket.

Miriam Thain, her mother, said: "She doesn't want to get up in the morning, doesn't want to get dressed. It is distressing because she says she is angry with me for listening to her teachers. I tell her I expected these people to know and to look after her. I think they have let her down very badly."

A spokesman for Glasgow's education department said: "We are confident that these allegations can be refuted. However, we understand that legal action may be pending and therefore cannot comment on the situation."

Professor Boyle commented: "All athletes push themselves to their limits. There is nothing very unusual about it and dancers must find there is a limit to the period they can stand on their toes. If they continue despite the fact they are tiring they will run into some sort of muscular and skeletal problems. "

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