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Dancing With the Klutzes?

Rocco Dispirito, Karina Smirrnoff, Dancing with the Stars ABC/KELSEY McNEAL

Misty May-Treanor tore an Achilles. Cristián de la Fuente blew out a biceps muscle. Derek Hough tweaked his neck. Karina Smirnoff twisted an ankle. Jeffrey Ross got a poke in the eye.

Seemingly week after week, seemingly season after season, Dancing With the Stars fills emergency rooms with ballroom casualties. Neither the pro dancers nor the varyingly talented celebrities have been safe.

Some have suggested a curse hangs over the hit ABC show. But as the injuries pile up, the impolite question begs: Are Dancing's dancers just klutzes? No, say the experts, they're just dancers.

"At least 50 percent of dancers will have spent one week at some point in their careers away from dance as a result of an injury," says Dr. Donald Rose of New York University's Harkness Center for Dance Injuries.

Rose's patient roster spans forms from belly to ballet, and dancers from theoretically limber 12-year-olds to Cloris Leachman-esque 80-year-olds. And while he's even seen Dancing With the Stars dancers—patient privacy prevents Rose from naming names—he'd be busy even if ambulances weren't lining up outside DWTS' studio like limos outside a Hollywood nightclub.

"I've seen a huge number of injuries," Rose says. "My waiting room is filled without that [show]."

Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, sure wasn't on DWTS when he ruptured every disc in his neck while rehearsing a new work in the 1990s.

"I think that injury is part of our career," says Wheater, whose neck injury ended the performing part of his.

Lauren Gottlieb, who competed on season three of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, says she's surprised DWTS hasn't seen even more injuries. Even among the pros.

"You're working the body a 1,000 percent more than you should," says Gottlieb.

Exhibit A: Gottlieb, who says she was struck by a painful stomach ailment during her SYTYCD run. Exhibit B: Two-time DWTS champ Julianne Hough, Derek's sister, who jitterbugged from last week's show straight to the hospital with, yes, stomach pain.

"It's the pressure underneath everything," she says. "It was 24/7."

Wheater is also surprised the show's injury toll hasn't been higher. After all, he says, "These people want to win." He is not surprised, however, that this season's oldest contestant, the 82-year-old Leachman, with whom he once shared a dance, has stayed out of the ER.  

"She's chosen the right dances," he says. "She's not being flipped upside down, back and forth, flipped across the floor."  

With age comes wisdom, apparently.

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