Soccer season is in full swing, and it is important for parent and coaches to think twice before letting a young, injured player compete through foot and ankle pain.

In the immature athlete, the action of starting and stepping and moving side-to-side on cleats -- that are no more than moccasins with spikes -- combine to represent foot and ankle injuries waiting to happen. The young athlete who has a lingering, nagging heel pain may have a stress fracture.

Stress fractures do not always show up on an initial X-ray, so parents and coaches may not have been aware of such injuries. When playing with pain, athletes cannot give their teams 100 percent, and continuing to play makes the injury worse. Rest, physical therapy and, in some cases, immobilization are needed to relieve the inflammation.

Soccer is a very popular sport in our community, but the constant running places excessive stress on the growth plates. The growth plates are still open until the ages of 14 to 16.

Other types of overuse injuries are Achilles Tendonitis and Plantar Fasciitis -- heel pain causes inflammation of the tissue extending from the heel to the toes. Quick, out-of-nowhere ankle sprains or collisions between soccer players take their toll as well.

These injuries should be taken seriously and evaluated promptly in children, so as to prevent traumatic arthritis in adulthood.

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 1988 Olympic Trials.