Imagine this, a child who is somewhere between 8 and 12 years old, who plays a lot of sport, whether it be soccer, football, netball, basketball, the list goes on. They’ve never really had any pain before, but now suddenly they’ve got a lot of pain in their heels!They’re limping off the grounds and complaining all night, not able to run as fast as they usually can and they’re telling you all about it!
They’ve only just returned to sport after having summer off, now training at least once a week.
Games have just started and they’re so excited to get out and get some wins under the belt but this pain in their heels is really limiting them! They’re sad because this pain is preventing them from interacting with their mates at trainings and games!!
It also appears that they’ve recently grown a lot!! Is it growing pains?
Why Do Kids Get Heel Pain?
What I’ve just laid out is a textbook presentation of a condition called Calcaneal apophysitis, or you may have also heard the term Sever’s. Sometimes there’s also the nasty word “disease” attached on the end, but let’s be clear… it’s not a disease!We definitely shouldn’t be calling it that.
Sever’s can debilitating in active kids. It is a major cause of heel pain in kids and can cause them a world of pain!
It commonly affects actively growing kids at 8-12 years old, affecting boys later than girls.
Without getting too medical and technical, the condition occurs when the growth plate in the heel is active and not completely fused. During a growth spurt, the calf muscle that inserts into the Achilles tendon which then inserts on the heel bone, starts pulling and creates a traction or pulling force on the growth plate. This causes microtraumas to that area, hence increasing inflammation and pain in the heels!
The kids will often say that it hurts to run, and maybe even hurts to walk. You may notice them limping and if you ask them to rise onto their tiptoes this will likely increase the pain in their heels.
Which Kids Are At Risk?
- High physical activity levels
- Multiple training and games in the week
- Lots of running and high impact activities
- Tight calf muscles
- Limited motion in ankle joints
- Abnormal foot postures
One of the biggest culprits for the cause of heel pain in young boys tends to be footy boots!Footy boots are often negatively heeled. This means that the heel of the boot sits lower than the toes, which places more strain through the calf and pulls on the heel even more.
There are some footy boots on the market that are built with a 10mm heel raise into them for this exact reason and are beneficial at getting that young boy back out on the field sooner.
The good news is though, there is plenty we can do to help your child get over this pain!
How Do We Fix The Pain?
First port of call is to reduce pain, whether it be through a decrease in load with activity level or through reducing the strain on the heel by putting a small heel wedge into the shoes.Quite often these kids are super active and are doing too much throughout the week!
We need to take a step back and think about what is important for them, allow them to do those activities, but reduce other activities in the mean-time until this pain has settled down!
We also get the kids doing some simple calf exercises to increase the strength in the muscles and begin their early stage rehab. We carry out a graded program where it slowly builds activity relevant exercises up so that they’re ready to go back to their sport pain free as soon as possible!!
We know how painful it is, how frustrating it is for them, and how much they want to be playing sport. If this is something you have heard before from your child, or you’re hearing as you’re reading this, book in for an assessment and to have your child back doing what they love pain-free!