What Is Severs Disease?

Overview

Sever's disease (calcaneal apophysitis) is an inflammatory condition that affects the heel bone (calcaneus). It happens frequently in young athletes between the ages of 10 and 13, causing pain in one or both heels when walking. Tenderness and swelling may also be present. Similar to another overuse condition, Osgood-Schlatter disease, Sever's disease has occasionally been termed Osgood-Schlatter of the heel. In young people, the heel bones are still divided by a layer of cartilage. During the growth years, the bone is growing faster than tendons. This makes it likely that the heel cord will be applying great tension where it inserts into the heel bone. In addition, the heel cord is attached to an immature portion of the heel bone, the calcaneal apophysis. In young athletes, the repetitive stress of running and jumping while playing soccer and basketball may cause an inflammation of the growth center of the heel.

Causes

Young athletes typically sustain the injury due to repeated stress caused by running and jumping. Partaking in any high speed sports can thus partly provoke the condition, such as football, rugby, basketball, hockey or track athletics. Crucially the injury is linked to overuse, so exercising with fatigued leg muscles, without a suitable warm up, or beginning a new strenuous physical activity are all risk factors. Placing excessive weight or pressure on the heel can also cause the injury. Another factor related to Sever's disease is overpronation, a biomechanical error that makes the foot roll too far inwards.

Symptoms

Symptoms include Heel Pain. Pain at the back of the heels when walking or running. Possibly a lump at the back of the heel, although this might be minimal. Pain and tenderness at the back of the heels, especially if you press on it, or give it a squeeze from the sides. Tight calf muscles resulting in reduced ankle range of motion.

Diagnosis

Sever condition is diagnosed by detecting the characteristic symptoms and signs above in the older children, particularly boys between 8 and 15 years of age. Sometimes X-ray testing can be helpful as it can occasionally demonstrate irregularity of the calcaneus bone at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches.

Non Surgical Treatment

The treatment of Sever's disease depends upon the severity of symptoms experienced by the patient. Care is initiated with a simple program of stretching and heel elevation to weaken the force applied to the calcaneus by the Achilles tendon. If stretches and heel elevation are unsuccessful in controlling the symptoms of Sever's disease, children should be removed from sports and placed on restricted activities. Mild Symptoms. Wear a 3/8 heel lift at all times (not just during physical activity). It is important to use a firm lift and not a soft heel pad. Calf stretches 6/day for 60 seconds each. Calf stretches are best accomplished by standing with the toes on the edge of a stretching block. Moderate Symptoms. Follow the directions for minor symptoms and decrease activity including elimination of any athletic activity. In addition to stretching by day, a night stretching splint can be worn while sleeping. Severe Symptoms. Follow the directions for mild and moderate symptoms. Children should be removed from sports activities such as football, basketball, soccer or gym class. A below knee walking cast with a heel lift or in severe cases, non-weight bearing fiberglass cast, may be indicated for 4-6 weeks. The cast should be applied in a mildly plantar flexed position. Cam Walkers should not be used for Sever's Disease unless they have a built in heel lift.

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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