Dr. William G. Hamilton, who as a New York Ballet orthopedic surgeon spent more than 40 years repairing bone spurs, tendonitis, bursitis, torn ligaments and what he called a “nutcracker fracture,” died March 29 at his home. On-Hudson, New York He was 90 years old.
His wife, Linda Hamilton, said the cause was heart failure.
Ballet dancers may be “God’s athletes,” as Albert Einstein supposedly put it. But by the time Dr. Hamilton arrived, they were treated more like etheric creatures than physical bodies that could crack, tear and disintegrate in any other way under the extreme and sometimes unnatural pressures of recurring wonder and jets.
In fact, it was George Blanchin, the choreographer who insisted that his dancers work stoically through their crooked toes and sprained ankles, who asked Dr. Hamilton to become the first 100-plus house doctor of New York City ballet in 1972.
Dr. Hamilton immediately said yes, even though he knew nothing about ballet. He immersed himself in art, attended weekend classes and approached Blanchin and then dancer and choreographer Mikhail Brishnikov, who in 1980 hired him to be the surgeon also treating the American Ballet Theater.
Dr. Hamilton, a kind 6-foot, 3-foot-tall southern man, became a favorite and even revered figure throughout Lincoln Center.
He kept ballet ballet in his examination room, and was known to catch early signs of chronic problems, which could weaken, just by asking a dancer to go through some routine movements.
Early on, he realized that while dancers suffered from the same types of injuries that athletes suffered, they received them in unclear ways and places. He saw, for example, that the rapid movements required of Blanchin’s ballets come with a risk of injury to the foot and ankle, while the more frequent jumps and jumps under Mr. Brishnikov are more threatening to the hips and knees.
“From the beginning, I learned that even though they suffer from the same injuries as athletes, dancers are artists first and foremost,” he told Dance magazine in 2011.
When Dr. Hamilton started, in the early 1970s, there was no such thing as dance medicine, and indeed foot and ankle injuries were a field that was largely unexplored in orthopedic medicine.
He built the two areas through lectures and journal articles in which he diagnosed injuries that had not been investigated before – he was among the first to describe the nutcracker fracture, for example, which includes multiple fractures in the cube bone in the foot. He served as president of the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Association from 1992-1993, and today every respected dance troupe in the country has a mast orthopedist.
“Bill was the king of orthopedic dance medicine,” Glenn Pepper, co-director of the Cedars-Sinai / USC Dance Medicine Center Glorya Kaufman, said in a telephone interview.
Dr. Hamilton continued to perform surgery until the age of 81 and consulted until a few years ago, long after most doctors had hung up the scalpel.
“I would have retired long ago had it not been for the dancers,” he told Princeton Alumni Weekly in a 2016 interview. “It’s very rewarding because they love what they do. They just want to dance; they will not want to do anything else.”
William Garnett Hamilton did not intend to become a doctor in Manhattan, let alone Baltman. He was born on January 11, 1932 in Altos, Okla, where his father, Milton Hamilton, was a salesman and his mother, Elizabeth (Garnett) Hamilton, was a housewife.
The family moved to Sreveport, La., When he was very young. After his parents divorced, his mother remarried and moved to Portage, Weiss., Where her new husband owned a plastic manufacturing company.
William graduated from Princeton in 1954 with a degree in engineering, and after two years in the Army joined his stepfather’s business in Wisconsin. He married and had a child; In his mid-20s, he said, he could see his whole life rolling in front of him. He did not like what he saw.
Contrary to his parents’ desire to remain in charge of the family company, he turned to medical school. He was accepted into Colombia, one of the few schools that took older students (he was 28 when he enrolled). He decided to focus on orthopedics – a field he says is no different from engineering, with muscles and joints facing ropes and cranes. He graduated in 1964 and after several years of residency, opened an internship in midtown Manhattan in 1969.
In addition to his work with the two ballet troupes, he has provided the same services to the bands affiliated with the troupes, the American Ballet School and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, and he has advised several Broadway appearances and sports teams in New York, including the Knicks and Yankees.
His first two marriages ended in divorce. He met his third future wife, Linda Homek, while she was a dancer with the New York City Ballet. She later received a doctorate in psychology from the University of Adelphi. In 2000 she and Dr. Hamilton formed a multidisciplinary health team, including a dietitian and gastroenterologist, to care for the band’s dancers, a model that has since been adopted by other ballet troupes.
Along with his wife, Dr. Hamilton is survived by his sister, Ann Kirk; his sons, William Jr. and Lewis; and three grandchildren.