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Pain in Youth Soccer Players
By Coach V
Please read the update to this article which now has a CURE.
It is HERE.
of youth soccer players will face this issue. Most will spend
weeks or even months trying to figure it out. I hope that after
reading this article it will be completely clear and your
worries will subside.
heels are killing him.
I have been there myself. My son at age 10 started to develop
horrible heel pain after playing soccer. Many times he simply
had to stop playing or sit out because the pain got so bad. I
struggled with this issue for quite some time. I did a large
amount of research and spent a lot of money trying to come up
with a cure.
age does this happen?
If you are
reading this article there is a good chance you have a male
soccer player between the ages of 9 and 14. Pretty good aren’t
I? Yes, it happens in female players as well, but is not as
It is called
Children’s heel pain differs from the most common form of heel
pain experienced by adults (plantar fasciitis) in the way pain
occurs. Plantar fascia pain is intense when getting out of bed
in the morning or after sitting for long periods, and then it
subsides after walking around a bit. Children’s heel pain
usually doesn't improve in this manner. In fact, walking around
typically makes the pain worse.
Heel pain is very common in
children because of the very nature of their growing feet. In
children, the heel bone (the calcaneus) is not yet fully
developed until age 14 or older. Until then, new bone is forming
at the growth plate (the apophysis), a weak area located at the
back of the heel. Too much stress on the growth plate is the
most common cause of pediatric heel pain.
non-medical terms, there is a growth plate in the heel of the
foot. It is connected to the Achilles tendon. When children are
at this age they often have growth spurts and these growth
spurts cause tension to form from the calves and Achilles
tendon. As the child runs and jumps it essentially causes
“pounding” on the heel and bone, it is irritated. In other
words, the tension from the growing muscles exposes the bones in
the heel to more impact. This pain can be extreme or simply
How do I
treat it and cure it?
“cure it”. The only way to cure it is time. Eventually as the
child matures and passes through the growth cycles the pain will
go away. You can however help the pain and here are some dos and
several “stretching” devices that can be worn at night. My son
won’t wear them because they are uncomfortable and many times
cause blood circulation loss. (Foot going to sleep.) For the
money, I would avoid these.
the calves and Achilles tendon will help slightly. Keeping the
feet flat on the ground
lean forward towards a wall until the stretch is felt. Hold it
for 30 seconds, release and repeat. This can be done 3 times a
day. (Great watching the TV exercise.) Try doing one foot at a
time and make sure the stretch is felt in the Achilles and not
the knee area.
jumping and stride running.
Stride running would be “laps” where our heel hits the ground
first. This is different from sprinting where the ball of our
foot absorbs most of the impact. Sports like basketball or
shooting hoops for hours on end outside will greatly increase
-New rule in
the house. No bare feet EVER. You heard me, from the time they
get out of bed they must wear something that helps absorb the
impact. Foam flip flops are fine. At least there is a layer
between the floor and the heel.
pads. You can buy soft gel heel pads at any sporting good store.
I have found that women’s sizes fit young male players’ cleats
well. You want soft gel pads. Not firm support pads. These have
helped about 50% of the pain.
- Icing? Well
we have tried icing the heels and it seems to help some. It
seems to help more when it is done shortly after activities.
This will relieve some of the pain but not really help cure it.
solution I have found is to first understand it, and then accept
the fact you can’t cure it. Limiting things such as “pick-up
games” on the weekends will help them get ready for and bare
training sessions during the week. I know this is hard, but it
is a "give and take".
It is unfortunate that this pain
comes at a critical time in a player’s development. Hopefully
explaining it to the child and having them get involved with it
will be one of the best things to help deal with it.