Youth Baseball & Heel Pain: should kids play through the pain?

Youth baseball, ptiching and foot painSpring has finally sprung and now there’s another baseball season that is about to begin. Travel leagues are continuing, while spring little league is beginning. Some of our children are playing both and that can lead to problems due to overuse that, as we know from our childhood, can contribute to injuries.

In our practice we are already noticing children coming into our offices complaining of heel pain. Kids with heel pain….not something many of us think about, but it happens more often than you may think.

What is causing my child’s heel pain?

Basically, what we’re dealing with is an irritation of the growth plate of the heel bone. This bone is also known as the Calcaneus.  As children grow, their bones naturally lengthen and their tendons slowly stretch and become longer. The stretching and pull of the Achilles tendon on the back of the heel bone can cause irritation and inflammation of the calcaneal growth plate. This irritation and inflammation, commonly known as Severs Disease or Calcaneal Apophysitis, is the pain your child is complaining about.

Sometimes the act of simply growing is enough to cause irritation to the growth plate. Add repetitive foot movements associated with baseball to the mix, and it’s easy to see how the repeated heel trauma can trigger or exasperate symptoms.

Gowth plate injuries in heel, Baseball injuriesThe required motion to play certain positions in baseball may increase the likelihood of your child having heel pain. The most common position associated with heel pain is pitching. Due to the increased pressure to the heel required to transfer weight during the pitching motion, and the direct trauma to the heel to accept weight to the lower extremity, we see more frequent inflammation of the heel. Remember, we are talking about children under the age of 16, so they are still growing.

Sometimes these ailments carried over from the previous season and continued play can aggravate the condition. And today many children are playing a single sport, year round without a break.  This continued stress on the same muscles and specific parts of the foot puts your child at risk for a growth plate injury.

Should your child play baseball with heel pain?

Certain movements increase trauma to the heels of your child. Playing baseball may contribute to local aches and pains for our young players. But unless we see local swelling, it is rare that complete rest is necessary. Usually, we suggest reducing local inflammation with icing for 5 to 10 minutes. Remember, these are areas that we do not want to reduce blood flow to for an extended period of time. Immobilization in the evening, as well as stretching of the Achilles tendon will help reduce inflammation locally. Adequate rest between practices and games is also recommended.

We recommend players protect the region in the short term and see their foot and ankle specialist for a complete evaluation if the discomfort persists. For more information about heel pain and children, we encourage you to call us at (877) 989-9110 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.

Dr. Gary Briskin, DPM and the UFAI Education Team

As co-founder and co-director of University Foot and Ankle Institute, board-certified Dr. Gary Briskin began his medical training by serving a residency at Flint General Hospital in Michigan. Once completed, he established a practice in Century City Hospital, where he soon became chief of podiatric surgery.

Dr. Briskin is a Diplomat of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. He also serves as an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.

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