Kids have an incredible ability to deal with pain. I’ve seen young children take bad falls, run into walls, or accidently get hit by a flying object and not miss a beat. They are stunned for a second, might shed a quick tear, but before you know it, they are back running around having fun. Despite their ability to play through discomfort, there is a specific type of heel pain that seems to bring kids to the doctor that we should discuss.
In order for a child’s bones to grow, the body forms a “growth plate” which allows bones to grow in length. These growth plates stay open into a child’s teenage years, allowing for maturation of their bodies. These growth plates are very sensitive to injury and are easily irritated. In a child’s heel, there is a growth plate which is commonly irritated as a child becomes more active in sports. The Achilles tendon is attached to this growth plate, which leaves the growth plate susceptible to the strong pull of this strong tendon as the bone grows. This is a very common condition in kids, which is called Calcaneal Apophysitis, or Sever’s Disease.
Symptoms that most children will experience are heel pain toward the end or after playing sports. There may be some mild swelling, but no bruising and the child will not be able to recall a specific event that caused their heels to hurt. Pain will slowly go away with rest, but will return if participation in sports is re-started. Sever’s disease is very commonly seen at the beginning of a new sports season, when wearing tight cleats or new athletic shoes, or when suddenly increasing activity after a relatively less active time period. Most children will recognize that something is not right and complain of their feet hurting.
Thankfully, this condition is very common and is not associated with long term foot pain. With some slight modification to shoe gear and other minor changes, most children will be pain free in 2-4 weeks and not miss any part of their athletic season. We’ll discuss treatment options next post.