Cheryl Burke of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars had a scary fall earlier this week during a dress rehearsal. The pro reportedly sustained a head injury, according to the show, but was thankfully feeling well enough to compete in Monday night’s episode. Her fall and subsequent head bump, which ABC later shared on Instagram, are pretty painful to watch.
In the clip, Burke and her competition partner, A.J. McLean, are practicing a routine in which McLean runs toward Burke and Burke prances backward. She appears to trip, stumbling back and hitting her head on the floor with an audible thump. Burke lies on the floor, while McLean crawls over to her and asks, “Are you okay?” McClean then says to the camera in a shot presumably filmed later, “It happened so fast, I just heard her head hit the floor.” The camera then flashes back to Burke sitting on the floor, holding an ice pack to her head.
Burke shared the incident on her personal Instagram account as well. “Yesterday, I took a hard fall while rehearsing for #VillainsNight,” she wrote in the caption. “Even though AJ kills me at the end of this Tango, this wasn’t part of the routine. It’s one of those things that can happen in a split second. Thankfully, I have the best partner I could ask for that was there to pick me up off the ground.” A medic examined Burke on the scene, and she took the rest of the day off as well, according to People.
It’s unclear exactly what kind of head injury Burke experienced, but we do know that falls like these are the most common cause of concussion, according to the Mayo Clinic. Concussions happen when a head injury causes the brain to bounce back and forth against the inner surfaces of the skull. Although the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain can cushion it against normal everyday bumps, a big enough jolt—like being in a sudden car accident—can do real damage and cause a concussion.
In fact, concussions are considered traumatic brain injuries. Concussion symptoms, which commonly include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, amnesia, and confusion often don’t show up immediately, which can delay diagnosis. When those symptoms do appear, they can last for days or weeks, depending on the severity of the brain injury. Most people with concussions will fully recover.
In order to properly diagnose a concussion, doctors may perform a neurological exam, which includes testing things like vision, hearing, and balance. They may also perform cognitive testing (which examines thinking skills) and imaging tests, such as a cranial computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), according to the Mayo Clinic.
The delayed onset of concussion symptoms is one reason it’s so important to be cautious about diving back into any strenuous activity after hitting your head, as the only way to heal a concussion is with both physical and mental rest, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. That typically means taking a break from physical activity and also limiting reading, looking at computer screens, and watching television to give yourself some mental rest as well.
Even after someone with a concussion no longer has symptoms, their doctor will likely recommend adding physical and mental work back in gradually, because a lack of symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that the brain is fully healed. And engaging in rigorous activity too soon puts someone at risk for another concussion. Repeat concussions can be more difficult to recover from and cause chronic symptoms, such as headaches and difficulty focusing.
It’s always best to monitor your body for symptoms or other irregularities after hitting your head and seek medical evaluation before resuming normal activity. The first 24 hours after hitting your head are crucial for monitoring developing symptoms. So the Mayo Clinic recommends that those who’ve had a head injury stay with a friend or family member who can check on them during that time.
It sounds like Burke was lucky to have a medical team on hand and is apparently in good shape to continue competing this season.