One of the most common complaints of youth athletes is heel pain. This generally occurs during the early portion of the growth phase around 8-10 years old, and can recur towards the end of growth,
(14-16 years old). Symptoms are typically in the back portion of the heel, can occur unilaterally or bilaterally, usually having a gradual onset. The heel bone?s growth plate is in this area, which
is immature soft bone and cartilage. A ?tug of war? occurs in this region from the foot growing longer and the leg bones getting taller, which puts tension on this heel bone area known as the
calcaneal apophysis. The inflammation is called calcaneal apophysitis or ?Sever?s disease?.
There are several theories as to the cause of this condition. These range from a tight Achilles tendon, to micro stress fractures of the calcaneal apopyhsis. The prevailing theory suggests that the
condition occurs when the child's growth plate is at its weakest. Combined with increased athletic activity, improper shoe gear and trauma the heel becomes inflamed and painful.
Sever's Disease is most commonly seen in physically active girls and boys from ages 10 to 15 years old. These are the years when the growth plate is still ""open,"" and has not fused into mature
bone. Also, these are the years when the growth plate is most vulnerable to overuse injuries, which are usually caused by sports activities. The most common symptoms of this disease include. Heel
pain in one or both heels. Usually seen in physically active children, especially at the beginning of a new sports season. The pain is usually experienced at the back of the heel, and includes the
following areas. The back of the heel (that area which rubs against the back of the shoe). The sides of the heel. Actually, this is one of the diagnostic tests for Sever's Disease, squeezing the rear
portion of the heel from both sides at the same time will produce pain. It is known as the Squeeze Test.
A Podiatrist can easily evaluate your child?s feet, to identify if a problem exists. Through testing the muscular flexibility. If there is a problem, a treatment plan can be create to address the
issue. At the initial treatment to control movement or to support the area we may use temporary padding and strapping and depending on how successful the treatment is, a long-term treatment plan will
be arranged. This long-term treatment plan may or may not involve heel raises, foot supports, muscle strengthening and or stretching.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young
patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close - at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on
its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a
strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a
podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.
It may take several weeks or months for the pain to completely stop. In most cases severs disease goes away on its own with a little rest and time. However if you ignore the pain and play through it,
the condition may get worse and may be more difficult to treat. When the pain is completely gone, you can slowly return to your previous level of activity. With future growth spurts the pain may
return therefore keep up with the stretches and follow the advice given.