Hospital for Special Surgery, NYC

Weak Ankles, Loose Knees, and Back Issues

Is It Soccer or Is It Growth Spurt Related?

My oldest child, now in 7th grade, has had soccer related injuries that plagued her season after season. Two years ago, she had issues with her ankles. After missing weeks of soccer, we made the doctor rounds. Pediatric orthopedic surgeon — a brilliant doctor at Mass General Hospital — had fixed my son’s 3 broken bones in his arm near critical growth plates. He healed up perfectly. Our doctor used x-rays and MRI but found nothing out of the ordinary. Could be tight hamstrings, he thought. 

We went to a foot doctor next. $600 inserts were custom made for her. These didn’t seem to make much difference either. Her ankles would still roll, causing sprains. Finally, at wits end, I asked my soccer coach friend. She gave us a cloth ankle brace — designed to support the ankle but letting the player move her foot in all the ways necessary for playing soccer. Still, she said the brace is to prevent injury but the ankle needs strengthening as well.

She gave us a rubber stretchy band and demonstrated how to trace the alphabet with your toe WHILE reading a book. This multi-tasking is helpful for student athletes!

I thought we were in the clear but then last summer, my daughter’s knee started bothering her. This time she was at sleep away camp and wasn’t able to do active sports. I had no idea because most of her correspondence merely requested items or more money in her account.


Fellow soccer parents offered up advice.

“Growth spurt,” they asked?

Oh yes! She shot up 3 or 4 inches.

Sometimes the ligaments have trouble catching up to the bone growth they advised. A Nurse Practitioner Mom Friend suggest a Neoprene knee brace. Another parent suggest gel heel inserts. We tried both.

It worked. She was able to play most of the season except for a week when she had …

Lower back pains.

Cause? Locker issues forced her to carry heavy textbooks all day. She thinks her 30 lb. backpack was the root cause. We tried ice. We tried rest. We tried stretching. It all seemed to help.

And so, now that soccer season is nearing the end, she is finally completely healthy.

The moral of the story? Keep trying. If I were to do it over, I would have sought a pediatric sports orthopedic specialist. Now, I have a name for the future.

As a parent with an injured child, I found that word of mouth advice to be very helpful. It doesn’t hurt that many of our neighbors are doctors or medical practitioners themselves. Parents who have kids with a similar injury also know the drill.

Once you know the problem, the next step is rehab. Ours was simple enough. More basic stretching. Since my daughter has such tight lower body muscles, she finds this painful. I had to get her to do yoga with an instructor. The stretchy band exercises for her ankle are also important and it’s easy for your kid to forget once she’s feeling better.

If you are in New York, there are wonderful facilities for pediatric orthopedic specialists. The Hospital for Special Surgery
is a world leader in orthopedics, rheumatology and rehabilitation. It recently opened the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Children’s Pavilion providing comprehensive, individualized rehabilitation for both inpatients and outpatients from birth to 21 years. Its multidisciplinary staff includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. You can also find them on Facebook.




I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Hospital for Special Surgery. A small donation to a charity of my choice was made in my name as a thank you for participating. You should consult with your physician or other health care provider before beginning any rehabilitation/therapy, sports training, or exercise program.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Artchoo

    I’m amazed at the level of care kids get now for sports injuries, but I suppose that goes along with the amount of time kids spend playing their sports these-a-days. My step kids keep going through similar situations during their seasons.
    Artchoo recently posted…Teenagers Make Art: Ella DigregorioMy Profile

    • Hi Artchoo,
      Thankfully we made it through the soccer season with no issues. That preventative stuff like the knee brace and gel heel pads really does help! I hope your step kids are staying healthy as well!

  2. My girls aren’t much for sports. Older teen likes dance and younger teen takes yoga. but older teen has had a lot of joint pains, especially at the ankle so i will definitely speak to our pediatrician about a pediatric orthopedic specialist. thanks for this mama. big hugs to your little girl.
    vanita recently posted…12 Flavors of WAHMMy Profile

  3. Ann

    Interesting, glad she is doing better.

    I think yoga is the answer for all rehab!

    And 30 lbs of books, yikes!
    Ann recently posted…After the StormMy Profile

  4. Sarah

    Thanks for sharing your story! My sister had to have orthopaedic surgery on her knee due to bone disease. She loved doing sports and since the operation she has been able to get back to her previous active life!

    • Hi Sarah,
      I’m so glad that the operation worked for your sister! Injuries take all the fun out of sports and I’m glad there are things to help prevent them but if that fails, that operations are successful in getting back to full mobility!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Heart Smart for FebruaryMy Profile

  5. Sarah

    I am so sorry to hear about your daughter and her soccer related injuries, but I am so glad to hear that she is back to full health now. My daughter had to undergo orthopaedic surgery in Northamptonshire, a few months ago as she had a dance related injury, she is doing very well now and can’t wait to get her dancing shoes back on! It is horrible having a daughter or son go through surgery, but knowing that they are in safe capable hands makes it a lot easier.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks so much! I’m glad your daughter is better too! I think some of these injuries are from a growth spurt combined with very tight lower body muscles. She still needs to stretch more and stay in good shape I’m noticing. This season’s transition to soccer has been hard on her calves and lower back now. Always something, I’m afraid!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Mexico Day Party Crafts for KidsMy Profile

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