We have an updated post with new info on heel pain and Sever’s disease. Here’s the link:
Sever’s Disease is extremely common in gymnasts and it can be extremely painful!
It’s like this. Imagine as an adult breaking a bone in your foot, but instead of getting a cast, you go out barefoot, run around, jump off of things, punch on a spring floor, and do all of this over a 4 hour span.
Now as a parent you know what Sever’s disease feels like! IT IS HORRIBLE!
Technically, these athletes do not have a fractured heel bone (calcaneus), but the growth plate is extremely irritated and this can produce the same symptoms as a fractured bone.
Any time bone has been injured, it creates immense pain.
Sever’s Disease or Calcaneal Apophysitis is an irritation in the posterior growth plate of the calcaneus or heel bone.
So Why Are Gymnasts Prone to Sever’s Disease?
There are a few reasons why gymnasts are prone to Sever’s Disease. We list them here and then break them down into more detail.
Here are the top 3 reasons gymnasts suffer from Sever’s Disease:
- They point their toes constantly
- They land improperly with the initial weight on their heels instead of toes, ball of foot, then heel
- They have unsupportive arches, causing undue stress on the whole foot
Pointing Their Toes
Pointing the toes uses two main muscles: gastrocnemius and soleus. These are the muscles of the calf and they have two very important functions.
The gastrocnemius muscle is our “high heel” muscle. It produces the incredibly beautiful aspects to the leg. This muscle in our leg is actually one of the standards for which our brain determines if someone is beautiful and specifically if they have nice legs.
This is why the gastrocnemius and pointing your toe is so important to gymnastics! It creates beautiful lines. And gymnastics is all about beautiful lines!
The gastrocnemius is actually most active when the knee is straight.
Now the soleus muscle is the opposite. If you have a large soleus muscle and very small grastrocnemius muscle, you will have what we lovingly refer to as “kankles.” But don’t despair because as a gymnast you need to have both muscles in proportion(strong and beautiful)!
The soleus will point the toes when your knee is bent. It’s a very prominent muscle on runners and the soleus is an extremely powerful muscle.
So when we think about these two muscles, remember:
The gastroc for show and the soleus for go!
So how does pointing your toes increase the effects of Sever’s disease? Well, both of these muscles attach on the heel bond just above the growth plate. And since gymnasts point their toes constantly, these two muscles are prone to being overused and they become incredibly tight, always pulling the heel bone putting pressure on the growth plate.
Landing Directly on Heels
Another thing gymnasts are prone to doing is landing on their heels directly. With the gastroc and soleus, were placing pressure on the growth plate from above, with this point, we’re putting pressure on the growth plate from below.
And this isn’t just a small amount of pressure!
Gymnasts can produce up to 14 times their body weight in pressure when landing at the gym!
This is an incredible amount of weight. So a 70 pound girl can produce up to 980 pounds of pressure. Can you say WOW!
When a gymnast lands on her heels without proper technique, all of her weight is initially put into the heel bone before traveling through her body.
And what’s the weakest portion of the heel bone? You guessed it, the growth plate.
So how should a gymnast land? Studies have shown the proper technique in order to dissipate the forces of landing should be in this order:
- Toes reach out for the ground
- Balls of feet
- Rolling onto the heels
- Knees stay behind toes and hinge backward
- Glute region stays back in the “butt out” position
- Core is tight and chest is up
Does landing like this happen overnight?
Absolutely not, but it is essential that your young female athlete learn to land like this. It not only takes the pressure off of the heel, it protects the knee, hip, and back.
One of our main programs at Gymnast Care is teaching young gymnasts how to land and jump properly, always keeping a tight core. If you’re interested in learning these techniques in your gym, let us know. We’ve also created videos on You Tube so you can learn more for free! Here’s an example:
To see all of our videos on YouTube, click here.
Arches Do Not Support The Foot
One of the first problems we ever saw in the gym was Sever’s Disease. It seemed like every 11 year old girl had it! And we couldn’t get it to go away. So we spent hours researching different methods to help young gymnasts stay out of pain in their heels.
The crazy thing was what helped the most was a simple arch taping technique. Dr. Josh would go into a gym, tape arches of the girls with Sever’s Disease and people thought Gymnast Care worked miracles!
There was an amazing study published by podiatrists on Sever’s Disease. They brought together tons of young athletes with this disease. They taped their arches and had amazing results. Every young child had relief of symptoms on average of 5 points on a scale of 0-10! And most athletes had complete relief of their heel pain.
That is amazing!
And we have these same results almost every time we tape an arch. But there was a problem. When Dr. Josh wasn’t in a gym, arches were not getting taped because parent and coaches didn’t feel comfortable or were too busy to tape.
One day while researching, Dr. Josh thought of an idea. What if we could provide an affordable brace that mimics the taping effect? And then we did it!
The X Brace came to life and we’ve been helping young athletes with heel pain ever since! It mimics the taping effects and it’s in use all over the United States!
So How Do We Treat Sever’s Disease at Home?
Sever’s Disease does not need to be a career or season ending disease. The pain can be taken away quickly and the long term solution can be started immediately!
Thank you so much for spending time with us today. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns and we can’t wait to see you in the gym soon!