School is back in session in the Austin Independent School District, and that means middle school parents will soon be sitting in the bleachers at volleyball and football games. Before you know it, that will be followed by basketball games and soccer matches. What a lot of opportunities for your children to play, develop skills, and—yes—get injured! Growing children of this age often complain of heel pain. They may be able to prevent Sever’s disease, a common cause of heel pain, with some basic stretches at home.

You may not have heard of this condition. It affects the growth plate of the calcaneus and is caused by rapid growth of the bone. When your child has a growth spurt, the Achilles tendon, which is attached to the back of the heel, may not keep up with the growth in the calcaneus. It becomes tight and pulls against it, causing swelling and tenderness in the growth plate that can become very painful. Active children who play sports are more prone to getting Sever’s disease.

What can you do so your young athlete doesn’t have to suffer this pain? Help him or her stretch out the hamstring and calf muscles, as well as the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel, to keep them relaxed and limber. Stretching exercises should be done two or three times per day with both legs, even if only one heel hurts. Do gentle stretches that don’t cause pain, but hold them for 20 seconds.

It will also help to strengthen the shin muscles at the front of the leg. Your child can sit on the floor with legs straight in front, with a bungee cord looped around his or her toes and a table leg. He or she can then pull the foot back against the cord as far as it can, and then point it forward. Repeat 15 times each foot, two or three times per day.

Stretching should help prevent Sever’s disease pain, but if it does occur, your child must stop the activity and rest to let the heel cord recover. This may take two weeks to two months, but it is important so the condition doesn’t become chronic. Call Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists at (512) 328-8900 for more information on stretching or to set up an appointment to address your child’s heel pain.

Photo credit: Stuart Miles via

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