Sever?s disease is particularly prevalent among active children between ages 8 and 15. Young boys and girls who play soccer and other sports in which footwear is inappropriate-i.e. too narrow in the toe box, too rigid, etc. are most commonly affected. Sever?s disease usually appears during the adolescent growth spurt-the 2-year period in early puberty where children grow the quickest. The adolescent growth spurt occurs between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls and 10 and 15 in boys. Teenagers over 15 years old rarely experience this heel problem, as heel bone growth is usually complete by this age. Sever?s disease usually self-resolves within 6 months of onset, though it can last longer.
Children are at greatest risk of developing Sever’s disease when they have reached the early part of a growth spurt in early puberty. For girls, this is typically around ages 8 to 10. For boys, it happens somewhere between the ages of 10 to 12. By the age of 15, the back of the heel has typically stopped growing in most children, and Sever’s disease becomes rare. Any running or jumping activities can increase the odds that a child will develop Sever’s disease. Soccer and gymnastics are two common sports that tend to put kids at risk.
The patient complains of activity related pain that usually settles with rest. On Examination the heel bone – or calcaneum – is tender on one or both sides. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles (calf muscles) may be tight and bending of the ankle might be limited because of that. Foot pronation (rolling in) often exacerbates the problem. There is rarely anything to see and with no redness or swelling and a pain that comes and goes mum and dad often wait before seeking advice on this condition. The pain may come on partway through a game and get worse or come at the end of the game. Initially pain will be related only to activity but as it gets worse the soreness will still be there the next morning and the child might limp on first getting up.
Sever’s disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order X-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
Reduce activity, avoid going barefoot, and cushion the child’s heel with shock absorbency. It is very important that your child wear shoes with padded heel surfaces and shoes with good arch supports even when not participating in sports. A heel cup or soft pediatric shoe insert is very important to reduce the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and to increase shock absorption and reduce irritation. The use of an ice pack after activity for 20 minutes is often useful. Your health care provider may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or custom orthotics.
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.