Athletes involved in running sports often complain of heel pain. This problem is caused by a condition known as apophysitis of the calcaneus (heel bone) or Sever's Disease.

The condition consists of an inflammation of the growth area (or heel plate) of the heel bone when it has not completely matured or closed together, and therefore, has developed in two parts. The patient will complain of pain in the area directly behind the heel and lower than the Achilles tendon.

It is commonly seen in boys and girls between the ages of 10 to 15 years old.

The pain usually presents in the area of the heel and is more pronounced in running and jumping sports. Sometimes there is a limp in the child's gait of which he or she may not even be aware. It has been described as an osteochondrosis, which is a loss of blood supply to the apophysis. In some cases, if not treated, this condition can result in adulthood pain. In the older athlete the complaint will be under the heel bone and arch area.

Some of the causes of growth plate injury include trauma, biomechanical foot imbalance of abnormal pronation of the foot (inward rolling and flattening of the foot), a high arch foot, cleated or improperly fitting shoes and improper training methods.

In summary, watch for any warning signals when young athletes complain of heel pain. There is usually a need for examination.

Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. He is a former marathon runner and was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials.