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Sever's Disease: Understanding and Managing Heel Pain in Young Athletes

Several years ago I wrote a blog post about Sever's Disease when my oldest son was suffering from the condition for the first time. His case was so severe that he actually fractured the growth plate in his heel. Today' I am not just metaphorically revisiting the top but actually here again with my 3rd son who is 11 and experiencing the same symptoms my now 16 year old had at his age.


I have to disclose that there are some Amazon Affiliate Links in this post and we do get a small commission from purchases made from those links (which is helpful for us!). But... these products really have been well tested in our household and I highly recommend.




 

Below is a blog post with some tips and tricks but if you walk away with anything I want it to be these 3 things.

1. These Tuli's Heel braces are magic

2. These adidas Copa's are the one shoe that consistently performed and supported his feet

3. Know that this will go away, eventually.

 

As a soccer mom who has dealt with Sever's Disease firsthand, I know the challenges it poses for both parents and players. This condition, characterized by swelling and irritation of the growth plate in the lower back part of the heel, often occurs in children between the ages of 9 and 14, particularly during growth spurts. For some young athletes, it can be completely debilitating, affecting them both physically and mentally.


If your child is experiencing heel pain and shows signs of Sever's Disease, here are a few helpful tips to help them navigate this challenging condition:


  1. Ice, Rest, and Ibuprofen: Before seeking professional medical advice, you can try icing your child's heels for 15 minutes after physical activity, giving them some rest, and administering ibuprofen to reduce inflammation.

  2. Consult a Doctor: While some coaches may suggest that Sever's Disease is a playable injury that will resolve on its own, it is crucial to consult a doctor. It is never normal for a child between the ages of 9 and 14 to experience physical pain on a daily basis. Your doctor may order X-rays to rule out more serious injuries and can confirm the diagnosis of Sever's Disease. This consultation can provide your young player with a better understanding of their condition and the available management strategies.

  3. Perform Recommended Stretches: When you visit your doctor, they will likely prescribe specific exercises to stretch the Achilles Tendon and alleviate the pulling that leads to heel irritation. Consistently following the stretching routine is essential for a quicker recovery.

  4. Utilize Heel Cups: Soccer players often struggle to recover from Sever's Disease due to the footwear they wear. The combination of cleats exerting pressure from the bottom and the strain on an immature and tight Achilles tendon exacerbates the irritation on the growth plate. Heel cups or heel braces can provide cushioning, support, and proper foot angling within the shoe, reducing the sudden pulling on the tendon while running. Heel cups can offer almost instant relief. I highly recommend these Tuli's Heel Braces.

  5. Listen to Your Child: While Sever's Disease may be uncomfortable, it also presents an opportunity for parents to teach their young athletes the importance of listening to their bodies. It can be tempting to dismiss the pain and encourage your child to play through it, but this is a chance to foster an understanding of self-care and to demonstrate that you, as a parent, are attentive to their needs.



Preventing Sever's Disease and Minimizing Recurrence:


Having experienced two episodes of Sever's Disease with my own children, I have researched extensively, consulted with medical professionals, and spoken to coaches and parents about this injury. Here are some tips for promoting heel health and reducing the likelihood of a recurrence:

  1. Correct Sitting Posture: In the fall season, we often see a rise in Sever's Disease cases, which I believe can be attributed to the return to school and improper sitting posture. Many players sit with their toes on the ground or allow their feet to dangle, which shortens the Achilles tendon. Encourage your child to sit in their school desks with their heels on the ground to maintain proper stretching of the tendon throughout the day.

  2. Beware of Swimming: Another potential factor contributing to fall cases of Sever's Disease is excessive swimming during the summer. Players who frequently engage in competitive swimming or spend prolonged periods with their toes pointed while swimming may return to a full soccer schedule with painful heels. The combination of toe-pointing and the impact on the heels running around concrete pools without shoes can create a recipe for heel pain.

  3. Invest in Quality Soccer Cleats: While it may be tempting to opt for inexpensive soccer cleats from a big box sports store, remember the saying, "you get what you pay for." Not all soccer shoes are equal, and pricier options are often better made and more beneficial for your child's feet. When purchasing new cleats, consider factors such as heel support, stud length, and overall quality. If your cleat budget is limited, at least ensure that your child's new boots fit comfortably with the heel cups inserted. I recommend adidas Copa's. If you can get earlier models you may be able to save money and I think they are better for young heels.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, but rather a parent with personal experience. The provided links are to information I found useful or products I have previously used for my own children. No company or individual has influenced the content of this post in any way. I do receive a small commission for purchases made through Amazon links on this page.



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