Kids who play sports, especially contact sports, are susceptible to injury. Sometimes these injuries are minor and athletes are able to play through the pain. Other injuries, however, can keep an athlete from practice and games for an extended period while their body heals from the injury. It’s important to know the difference to prevent further damage and a longer recovery.
Heel pain is something that should be addressed at the first inkling of pain. Playing through this pain can worsen the injury and prolong the recovery. Below are several reasons a kid may start experiencing pain.
Sever’s Disease. Though its name may suggest an illness, it’s really just a condition that is treatable and temporary. Sever’s Disease is an aggravation and inflammation of the growth plate in the heel. This can be caused during a growth spurt when the bone grows faster than the muscles and tendons. This creates tightness and tenderness where the tendon attaches to the Achilles. It is most common in pre-teens going through puberty. The child needs to stop the activity and follow the doctor’s orders for treatment. Sever’s Disease can last up to two months.
Bursitis. A bursa is a pocket of fluid near the tendon. When the bursa is inflamed it causes pain and swelling in the heel. This is referred to as bursitis. This can be caused by irritation to the tendon through strain or rubbing from a tight shoe.
Plantar Fasciitis. Pain on the bottom side of the heel can be from Plantar Fasciitis. This is caused by inflammation in the connective tissue (plantar fascia) at the heel bone. It is usually the result of other foot problems such as flat feet or high arches. Treatments usually involve strengthening and stretching exercises, but other measures are available in more severe cases.
Bruised Heel. A bruised heel is an injury to the pad of the foot that protects the heel bone. This can be caused by a single incident such as jumping from a higher point and landing on a hard surface, or repetitive pressure being applied to the area. This can commonly be found in athletes wearing cleats, which are not cushioned. A bruised heel is painful when pressure is applied and might also have visible discoloration.
For most heel pain, the RICE method can be applied to relieve symptoms until you can see a doctor.
R = Rest. Stay off the foot as much as possible to avoid further damage.
I = Ice. Applying an ice pack helps to reduce inflammation.
C = Compression. Tape or wrap the heel to reduce swelling.
E = Elevate. Prop the foot up on a pillow while resting or icing. Keeping the foot above the heart helps reduce swelling.
When your child complains of pain in their feet ask questions to get a sense of where the pain is and what might be causing it. Consult with your doctor’s office to see if a visit is needed. Addressing the pain as quickly as possible will help to prevent further injury and a longer recovery.