Kids living in the Tampa area never stop playing sports. In fact, they play multiple sports all year round. We are big promoters of an active lifestyles, and it’s a fact that daily exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes significantly. Unfortunately, too much of anything can cause problems. Children who engage in competitive sports are pushing their growing bodies to the limit which in turn can result in pain. The most common problem that I encounter with pediatric patients is heel pain. This is not the same heel pain (plantar fasciitis) experienced by adults since it involves the child’s growth plate. This problem is called calcaneal apophysitis (inflammation of the growth plate aka Severs’ Disease).
The typical patient will complain of pain in the back of their heel during activities such as walking, running, and jumping. All of these actions are involved in a multitude of sports and can result in a decrease in the level of activity due to pain. The pain is due to strain placed on the Achilles’ tendon which in turn causes tension on the back of the heel. A child’s heel bone has a growth plate right where the tendinous attachments are. If there is increased tension on the growth plate, then pain and swelling can occur. The typical symptoms of this foot problem are pain and swelling at the back of the heel. A decrease in symptoms can be noted when the activities are stopped. Some patients have such severe pain that they are unable to walk.
Treatment for calcaneal apophysitis is pretty standard. Temporarily decreasing or stopping the activity causing pain is step one. Next, we consider custom orthotics to help support the heel bone so that the strain to the bone can be reduced. These will allow a child to get back to his/her normal activity level without pain. Icing and compression can help to alleviate the swelling and inflammation to the area. Stretching the calf and hamstring muscles can reduce strain on the heel bone as well, thus reducing pain. Finally, oral anti-inflammatories/analgesics can be utilized to decrease pain and swelling. If the pain is extreme, then a below knee cast may be warranted.
If your child complains of pain and swelling to their heels during activities or at any time, please do not hesitate to make an appointment. Call 813-875-0555 and make an appointment to help your child achieve their full athletic potential.