Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever?s disease) is the most common cause of heel pain in young athletes. Calcaneal apophysitis is a painful inflammation of the heel?s calcaneal apophysis growth plate, believed to be caused by repetitive microtrauma from the pull of the Achilles tendon on the apophysis. Patients with calcaneal apophysitis may have activity-related pain in the posterior aspect of the heel. 60 percent of patients report bilateral pain. This condition is usually treated conservatively with stretching and arch supports. The young athlete should be able to return to normal activities as the pain decreases. Calcaneal apophysitis (Sever?s Disease) may last for months. Increasing pain, despite measures listed below, warrants a return visit to the physician.
Sever’s Disease typically affects boys and girls between 8-15 years of age. Risk factors include. Athletic activity that involves heel contact with hard surfaces, as in gymnastics, track, soccer, basketball, ice skating, ballet and aerobics. The wearing of ill-fitting shoes. Well-made shoes that fit properly are a must for every child. Prolonged periods of standing. If a child complains of heel pain after choir practice, doing dishes, standing in lines or other activities that put pressure on the heel bones, pay attention.
Pain is usually felt at the back of the heel and around the sides of the heel. If you squeeze the back of the heel from both sides simultaneously and pain is experienced Sever?s disease is more than likely present.
It is not difficult for a doctor to diagnose Sever’s disease in a youngster or teenager. A personal history and a physical examination are usually all it takes to determine the cause of heel pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include relative rest and modified activity, a physiotherapist can help work out what, and how much, activity to undertake. Cold packs, apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking. Shoe inserts, small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term. Medication, pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor). Anti-inflammatory creams are also an effective management tool. Splinting or casting, in severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare. Time, generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time. Correction of any biomechanical issues, a physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition. Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.
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.