Sever?s disease (also known as calcaneal apophysitis) is a type of bone injury in which the growth plate in the lower back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon (the heel cord that attaches to the growth plate) attaches, becomes inflamed and causes pain. Sever?s disease is the most common cause of heel pain in children, especially those who exercise or play sports on a regular basis.
Overuse and stress on the heel bone through participation in sports is a major cause of calcaneal apophysitis. The heel?s growth plate is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces, resulting in muscle strain and inflamed tissue. For this reason, children and adolescents involved in soccer, track, or basketball are especially vulnerable. Other potential causes of calcaneal apophysitis include obesity, a tight Achilles tendon, and biomechanical problems such as flatfoot or a high-arched foot.
Adolescents suffering from Sever?s disease usually complain of pain at the back of their heel which is often worse after exercising. It is most common between the ages of 10-12 in boys and 8-10 in girls due to the rapid growth spurts that occur during this time. It can however happen anytime up until the age of 15. Whilst most people present with pain worse in one foot, it is very common to have symptoms in both feet.
All medical diagnosis should be made by taking a full history, examining the patient then performing investigations. The problem usually occurs in boys who are going through or have just gone through a growth spurt; one or both heels may be affected. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. There may be swelling over the back of the heel and this area is painful if touched or knocked. On examination the patient often has flat feet, very tight legs muscles especially the gastrocnemius.
Non Surgical Treatment
The practitioner should inform the patient and the patient?s parents that this is not a dangerous disorder and that it will resolve spontaneously as the patient matures (16-18 years old). Treatment depends on the severity of the child?s symptoms. The condition is self-limiting, thus the patient?s activity level should be limited only by pain. Treatment is quite varied. Relative Rest/ Modified rest or cessation of sports. Cryotherapy. Stretching Triceps Surae and strengthen extensors. Nighttime dorsiflexion splints (often used for plantar fasciitis, relieve the symptoms and help to maintain flexibility). Plantar fascial stretching. Gentle mobilizations to the subtalar joint and forefoot area. Heel lifts, Orthoses (all types, heel cups, heel foam), padding for shock absorption or strapping of heel to decrease impact shock. Electrical stimulation in the form of Russian stimulation sine wave modulated at 2500 Hz with a 12 second on time and an 8 second off time with a 3 second ramp. Advise to wear supportive shoes. Ultrasound, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Casting (2-4 weeks) or Crutches (sever cases). Corticosteroid injections are not recommended. Ketoprofen Gel as an addition to treatment. Symptoms usually resolve in a few weeks to 2 months after therapy is initiated. In order to prevent calcaneal apophysitis when returning to sports (after successful treatment and full recovery), icing and stretching after activity are most indicated. Respectable opinion and poorly conducted retrospective case series make up the majority of evidence on this condition. The level of evidence for most of what we purport to know about Sever?s disease is at such a level that prospective, well-designed studies are a necessity to allow any confidence in describing this condition and its treatment.
This condition is self limiting - it will go away when the two parts of bony growth join together - this is natural. Unfortunately, Sever's disease can be very painful and limit sport activity of the child while waiting for it to go away, so treatment is often advised to help relieve it. In a few cases of Sever's disease, the treatment is not successful and these children will be restricted in their activity levels until the two growth areas join - usually around the age of 16 years. There are no known long term complications associated with Sever's disease.