Heel Pain in Youth Athletes
Heel pain in kids who are still growing is often very different from heel pain in adults.
Unfortunately, parents and coaches often don’t know what’s going on or understand the differences. As a result, the young athlete may be pulled out of the game unnecessarily, or take longer to return to full strength.
With kids, the most common cause of heel pain is Sever’s disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis. Until kids reach skeletal maturity (around 14-17 for girls and 18-22 for boys), the ends of their bones are capped by growth plates. They are softer than the surrounding bone and, true to their name, are responsible for increasing the length of the bone.
Growth plates in general are more fragile and susceptible to inflammation or cracking, and the growth plate located along the heel is particularly vulnerable for active, growing kids. Impact forces from sports, and even tight muscles and tendons that attach to the heel bone, can cause pain.
The last thing your kid wants is to be pulled out of the game—and lucky for him or her, Dr. Yakel agrees! After a diagnosis of Sever’s disease is made, he can provide treatment options to help them ease the strain and pain so they can play their best. Orthotics are usually the best and quickest option, alongside stretching exercises, icing, and heel lifts.
Heel Pain in Active Adults
Once the skeleton reaches maturity, Sever’s disease is no longer an issue. But that isn’t the end of heel pain, of course.
The most common heel pain diagnosis in adults is plantar fasciitis, which refers to swelling and tearing of the plantar fascia ligament on the bottom of the foot. The pain from this condition is often especially worse right after getting out of bed and after periods of sitting.
Other conditions that can cause heel pain include Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, bone spurs, bursitis, and many others.