Sever's Disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a disease of the growth plate of the heel bone (calcaneus) and is characterized by pain in the heel of a child's foot, typically brought on by some form of injury or minor trauma from sports participation. This condition is most common in children ages 9 to 14 and is frequently seen in active soccer, football, or baseball players. Sport shoes with cleats are also known to aggravate the condition. The disease can mimic Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon attached to the back of the heel. A tight Achilles tendon contributes to Sever's Disease by pulling excessively on the growth plate of the heel bone. Feet that flatten out to excess (hyperpronate) are also prone to this problem, as this can involve extra torque on the calcaneus by the Achilles tendon.
The heel bone sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles (including the calf muscles) and tendons (including the Achilles tendon) during the early puberty growth spurt. The different growth rate in these structures can cause lower leg muscles and tendons to become overstretched and tight, which makes the heel less flexible and puts excessive pressure on the heel growth plate. The Achilles tendon, the strongest tendon in the body, attaches to the heel growth plate, and repetitive stress on this structure, especially if it?s already tight, can damage the growth plate, leading to tenderness, swelling, and pain. Activities that involve running or jumping, such as soccer, gymnastics, track, and basketball, can place significant stress on a tight Achilles tendon and contribute to the onset of Sever?s disease. Ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to this health problem by failing to provide the right kind of support or by rubbing against the back of heel. The following factors may increase the likelihood of Sever?s disease in kids or young teens. Wearing footwear that is too narrow in the toe box. Leg length inequality. Obesity or carrying excess bodyweight. Excessive foot and ankle pronation.
Pain is usually felt at the back of the heel and around the sides of the heel. If you squeeze the back of the heel from both sides simultaneously and pain is experienced Sever?s disease is more than likely present.
Physical examination varies depending on the severity and length of involvement. Bilateral involvement is present in approximately 60% of cases. Most patients experience pain with deep palpation at the Achilles insertion and pain when performing active toe raises. Forced dorsiflexion of the ankle also proves uncomfortable and is relieved with passive equinus positioning. Swelling may be present but usually is mild. In long-standing cases, the child may have calcaneal enlargement.
Non Surgical Treatment
Activity Modification: to decrease the pain, limiting sporting activities is essential. Cutting back on the duration, intensity, and frequency can significantly improve symptoms. Heel cord stretching is important if heel cord tightness is present. Heel cushions/cups or soft orthotics decreases the impact on the calcaneus by distributing and cushioning the weight bearing of the heel. Use of NSAIDS. Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can decrease pain and secondary swelling. Ice. Placing cold or ice packs onto the painful heel can alleviate pain. Short-leg cast. For recalcitrant symptoms a short-leg cast is occasionally used to force rest the heel.
If the child has a pronated foot, a flat or high arch, or another condition that increases the risk of Sever's disease, the doctor might recommend special shoe inserts, called orthotic devices, such as heel pads that cushion the heel as it strikes the ground, heel lifts that reduce strain on the Achilles tendon by raising the heel, arch supports that hold the heel in an ideal position. If a child is overweight or obese, the doctor will probably also recommend weight loss to decrease pressure on the heel. The risk of recurrence goes away on its own when foot growth is complete and the growth plate has fused to the rest of the heel bone, usually around age 15.