The true name of this complaint is calcaneal apophysitis which just means an inflamation of the growth centre of the bone in your heel as a result of pulling by the Achilles tendon – it is important to realise that it is not a disease but rather a condition that develops in the growing skeleton with activity. It is the most common cause of heel pain in young athletes, and is the second most common condition of its kind in the younger athelete after Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. It is often seen at a time of rapid growth during which the muscles and soft tissues become tighter as the bones get longer. It occurs more in boys than girls and is seen most commonly between the ages of 8 and 14 years though it tends to be more prevalent in the younger of this group.
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.
In Sever?s disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she stands on tiptoe. Your child?s heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your provider may also find that your child?s heel tendons have become tight.
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
Stretching programs. Strengthening exercises. Exercise and training modification. Orthotic therapy. In rare cases, where fragmentation of the apophysis exists and pain fails to subside with traditional treatments then immobilization of the foot and ankle with a short leg pneumatic walker(walking cast) is indicated.
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.