Are you experiencing growth spurt pain in your ankles or knees? Young athletes who are going through puberty have rapid growth in the bones of their limbs, followed by the bones of the spine. Sometimes bone growth is so rapid that muscle growth cannot keep up, resulting in muscle tightness, which can lead not only to a decrease in sports performance but also play a role in certain conditions associated with puberty such as Osgood Schlatter Disease or Sever’s Disease.
Osgood Schlatter Disease is associated with pain below the kneecap. It is caused by pulling of the muscles around the knee on a growth plate below the kneecap. It can become very uncomfortable for a young athlete and can affect his or her ability to perform at a high level. Osgood Schlatter Disease and Sever’s Disease can cause a great deal of discomfort during puberty, which can negatively impact sports performance. Although there is no cure for the diseases, rest and stretching can alleviate some discomfort and allow you to play at your highest level until your growth spurt is finished.
Perform the following stretches five times per week to alleviate the discomfort.
Side-Lying Quad Pull
- Lie on your side with one leg stacked directly on top of the other.
- Using your top hand, grab your top foot and pull back until your heel touches or is close to the back of your waist. If possible, pull until your knee slides back behind your hip, but avoid lifting your thigh and knee upward.
- Pull to the point of slight discomfort without pain and hold for 30 seconds.
- Sets/Duration: 3×30 seconds each leg
Assisted Leg Drops
- Lie flat on your back and have a partner hold your leg straight up in the air so that it is perpendicular to the ground (if you lack a partner, use a wall or doorway).
- Keep your foot and knee aligned with your hips, and keep your knee perfectly straight.
- Raise your opposite leg so both legs are in the air.
- Keep your tailbone flat on the ground.
- While your partner (or the wall) continues to hold your leg in place, slowly lower the opposite leg until it touches the ground.
- If this stretch is too difficult to perform with proper technique, work through the range you can with slight discomfort and no pain.
Sets/Reps 2×12 each leg
Ankle Dorsiflexion Stretch
Severs Disease is associated with pain where the Achilles tendon meets the heel. It is triggered by the tendon pulling on the growth plate at the heel. Below is a stretch and several variations that can help alleviate some tension:
- Use a small step and wall for balance. Be sure the step is secured.
- Stand on the small step allowing your heels to hang off the edge.
- Allow your heels to drop below the step by pulling your toes toward your shins.
- There are a variety of ways to do this stretch—knees straight, knees bent, and on one leg. Find which one gives you the best stretch.
Sets/Duration: 3×30 seconds each leg