Diagnosing Severs Disease

Overview

Sever's Disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a disease of the growth plate of the bone and is characterized by pain in the heel of a child's foot, typically brought on by some form of injury or trauma. This condition is most common in children ages 10 to 15 and is frequently seen in active soccer, football, or baseball players. Sport shoes with cleats are also known to aggravate the condition. The disease mimics 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 (calcaneus). Treatment includes cutting back on sports activities, calf muscle stretching exercises, heel cushions in the shoes, icing, and/or anti-inflammatory medications. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications.

Causes

One of the most common causes of heel pain in adolescents, Sever's disease is an overuse injury to the growth plate of the calcaneus (heel). It is commonly seen in growing, active children 8-12 years of age. Soccer players, gymnasts, and children who do any sort of running or jumping activity have an increased risk of developing Sever's disease. Occurring in one or both feet, Sever?s disease occurs at the back of the heel (also known as the apophysis or the insertion of the Achilles tendon).

Symptoms

Athletes with Sever?s disease are typically aged 9 to 13 years and participate in running or jumping sports such as soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and gymnastics. The typical complaint is heel pain that develops slowly and occurs with activity. The pain is usually described like a bruise. There is rarely swelling or visible bruising. The pain is usually worse with running in cleats or shoes that have limited heel lift, cushion, and arch support. The pain usually goes away with rest and rarely occurs with low-impact sports such as bicycling, skating, or swimming.

Diagnosis

The x-ray appearance usually shows the apophysis to be divided into multiple parts. Sometimes a series of small fragments is noted. Asymptomatic heels may also show x-ray findings of resporption, fragmentation and increased density. But they occur much less often in the normal foot. Pulling or ?traction? of the Achilles tendon on the unossified growth plate is a likely contributing factor to Sever?s disease. Excessive pronation and a tight Achilles and limited dorsiflexion may also contribute to the development of this condition.

Non Surgical Treatment

The simplest form of treatment is rest. Symptoms usually peak during activity. If the growth plate of the heel is allowed ample rest time and the amount of pressure is reduced, circumstances will improve. To aid in decreasing pain and swelling, wrap the heel with an ice pack. Your podiatrists at Advanced Foot & Ankle of Arizona will provide you with the perfect guide to recovery. After examination of the affected foot, time taken off from physical activity may be recommended. Stretching exercises and physical therapy will help strengthen the tendons and muscles surrounding the growth plate.

Surgical Treatment

The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.

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