Although the name might sound pretty frightening, Sever's disease is really a common heel injury that occurs in young people. It can be painful, but is only temporary and has no long-term effects The condition occurs most commonly in children between the ages of 8 and 14 years but it can occur in younger children. It happens when the attachemnt of the Achilles tendon to the growth plate, becomes inflamed and causes pain.
The actual pathology of the condition is one of more of an overuse syndrome in which the growth plate of the heel may become slightly displaced, causing pain. Biopsies of similar conditions have shown changes consistent with separation of the cartilage. The cause of Sever's disease is not entirely clear. It is most likely due to overuse or repeated minor trauma that happens in a lot of sporting activities - the cartilage join between the two parts of the bone can not take all the shear stress of the activities. Some children seem to be just more prone to it for an unknown reason, combine this with sport, especially if its on a hard surface and the risk of getting it increases. A pronated foot and tight calf muscles are common contributing factors. The condition is very similar to Osgood-Schlatters Disease which occurs at the knee.
Sever?s disease is more common in boys. They tend to have later growth spurts and typically get the condition between the ages of 10 and 15. In girls, it usually happens between 8 and 13. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, or redness in one or both heels, tenderness and tightness in the back of the heel that feels worse when the area is squeezed. Heel pain that gets worse after running or jumping, and feels better after rest. The pain may be especially bad at the beginning of a sports season or when wearing hard, stiff shoes like soccer cleats. Trouble walking. Walking or running with a limp or on tip toes.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot. The doctor may order an x-ray because x-rays can confirm how mature the growth center is and if there are other sources of heel pain, such as a stress fracture or bone cyst. However, x-rays are not necessary to diagnose Sever?s disease, and it is not possible to make the diagnosis based on the x-ray alone.
Non Surgical Treatment
Ice: For at least 20 minutes after activity or when pain increases.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs:(NSAIDs) may also help. Stretch the calf. Increase calf flexibility by doing calf stretches for 30 to 45 seconds several times per day.
Protect the heel: The shoe may need to be modified to provide the proper heel lift or arch support.
Select a shoe with good arch support and heel lift if possible. Try heel lifts or heel cups in sports shoes, especially cleats. Try arch support in cleats if flat feet contribute to the problem.
Take it one step at a time:. Gradually resume running and impact activities as symptoms allow. Sever?s disease usually goes away when the growth plate (apophysis) matures, which should be by age 12 to 13 years in females and 13 to 14 years in males.
Properly stretching to maintain flexibility is effective for preventing Sever's disease. Stretches should target the calves, heel cords, and hamstrings. Your child should do the appropriate stretches two or three times a day, holding the stretch for about 20 seconds each time. Ask your child's doctor for specific exercise instructions. Generally, doctors advise stretching both legs, even if the pain is confined to one heel. It's also helpful to strengthen the shin muscles by having your youngster pull his toes in with a rubber exercise band or a piece of tubing and then stretch them forward. Assist your child in doing 15 repetitions of this exercise, three times a day. Having your child wear shoes with good shock absorbers and avoid running on hard surfaces as much as possible should also help prevent the condition.