Sever?s is described as a traction apophysitis. In childhood our bones are made of a cartilage mould of the bone, which over time as we grow slowly turns into a full bone. The reason for this is that it is easier to grow cartilage to the length required, and then back fill with bone later than it is to actually grow new bone. Most bones have a least two growth of bone centres, one by the joint and one making the main body of the bone. In the growing heel bone (calcaneus) the posterior part has a separate growth area where the Achilles tendon attaches. When playing lots of sport, especially football, rugby and hockey, the two areas of bone can be pulled apart, producing pain. Recent evidence has also suggested that the appearance of this condition on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), appears to indicate that Sever?s is a type of stress fracture. Whether that fatigue stress is from compression or tension remains in debate, and is probably a combination of both.
Your child is most at risk for this condition when he or she is in the early part of the growth spurt in early puberty. Sever’s disease is most common in physically active girls 8 years to 10 years of age and in physically active boys 10 years to 12 years of age. Soccer players and gymnasts often get Sever’s disease, but children who do any running or jumping activity may also be at an increased risk. Sever’s disease rarely occurs in older teenagers because the back of the heel has typically finished growing by 15 years of age.
Most children with Sever’s complain of pain in the heel that occurs during or after activity (typically running or jumping) and is usually relieved by rest. The pain may be worse when wearing cleats. Sixty percent of children’s with Sever’s report experiencing pain in both heels.
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.
Non Surgical Treatment
Consulting with a physiotherapist to confirm the diagnosis is important. Physiotherapist?s will advise on a management plan, usually consisting of activity modification (a reduction in playing and training) and addressing the contributing factors as outlined above. Treatment may include relative rest/modified rest or cessation of sports, biomechanical correction, the use of heel wedges, soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, education, icing, taping, exercises addressing flexibility, strength or balance issues, footwear assessment and advice, a gradual return to activity program.
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.