Heel Pain in the Young Athlete

December holidays are something of the past. Schools are starting, the days are sunny (sometimes) and suddenly with a big bang, all athletics, tennis and swimming events are back in full swing

Our young athletes start with practicing and playing these sports several times a week. Physical activity will always be encouraged for children so that they can maintain a healthy lifestyle. BUT frequent repetitive stress on certain joints can increase our risk for injuries.

One of the more frequent complaints with children seen in the practice of late between 9-13 years old who participate in running and jumping on hard surfaces, is heel pain. (Girls may experience this growth spurt between the ages of 8 – 13 and boys between the ages of 10 – 15). In our young athletes the inflammation or swelling of the heel bone where our Achilles tendon attaches, is known as Sever’s disease.

A little bit more on Sever’s disease

Sever’s disease is a swelling and irritation of the growth plate in the heel. It occurs during a 2- 3-year period of the early puberty growth spurt. Children usually grows rapidly during a growth spurt. The problem is that the bones are growing faster than your muscles and tendons.

In sever’s the Calf muscle an Achilles tendon is shorter. So, the repetitiveness of exercising running, and jumping is causing the inflammation, stiffness and tenderness.

Signs and symptoms

  • Tenderness in heel where Achilles tendon attach
  • Difficult walking
  • Pain worse with certain activities
  • Better with rest
  • Recent growth spurt


  • Rest
  • Ice after activity for 15- 20 min
  • Stretching of Achilles tendon and calf muscles area for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times per day.
  • Icing before an activity can also help with pain management
  • Heel lifts in shoes
  • Soft tissue massage to help with stiffness
  • Strapping to decrease load

The good news is that Sever’s is not a long-term chronic injury and physiotherapy greatly assistsin ensuring a great prognosis!

– Dirkie Coomans


Allison Blair

All stories by: Allison Blair