Sever?s disease is a condition that occurs in children during the growth spurt of adolescence, typically between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. It is often painful but can be treated early with good results. Sever?s disease occurs when the growth plate in the heel begins to swell. Sever?s disease often occurs during the same period in a child?s growth as Osgood-Schlatter disease.
Sever’s disease usually develops as a result of overuse and is common in active children between the ages of 8 to 12. Activities that involve running or jumping can cause undue stress on the calcaneal apophysis. This in turn leads to the development of microscopic damage to the calcaneal apophysis resulting in inflammation and pain. Poor flexibility of the calf muscles and of the Achilles tendon, overpronation (feet rolled in) and inappropriate footwear are some of the other factors that can cause Sever’s disease.
Children aged between 8 to 13 years of age can experience Sever?s disease with girls being normally younger and boys slightly older. Sever?s disease normally involves the back of the heel bone becoming painful towards the end of intense or prolonged activity and can remain painful after the activity for a few hours. Severe cases can result in limping and pain that can even remain the next morning after sport.
This can include physical examination and x-ray evaluation. X-rays may show some increased density or sclerosis of the apophysis (island of bone on the back of the heel). This problem may be on one side or bilateral.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close – at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.
Sever’s disease may be prevented by maintaining good joint and muscle flexibility in the years leading up to, and during, their growth spurts (eg girls 8 to 10, boys 10 to 12). Foot arch problems such as flat feet should be addressed after the age of five if they don’t appear to be self-correcting. If you are concerned, please ask your health practitioner. The most important factor is the amount of weight-bearing exercise your child is currently performing. Finally, LISTEN To Your Child! If your child is suffering heel pain between the ages of 8 to 12, suspect Sever’s disease until proven otherwise. Seek the professional opinion of your foot practitioner regarding its diagnosis and subsequent management.