Children with Sever's disease, which is also called calcaneal apophysitis, develop microfractures where the Achilles tendon inserts on the calcaneus, the large bone that makes up the heel of the foot. These microfractures cause pain, which can vary depending on the type of activity your child is doing, and is generally worse after activity and improves with rest. Sever's disease is more common in boys and typically occurs when a child is between 8 and 13 years old. Although it can affect both heels, it more commonly just affects one foot.
Mechanically, the heel takes a beating. And the apophyseal bone is located near the point of impact for the heel bone at heel strike and with most weight bearing activities. This includes running, jumping and walking. Heavy impact activities like soccer, football and gymnastics are commonly associated with this problem. In addition to this, there is traction on this apophyseal bone and the associated physeal line of growth cartilage. This traction on the apopysis (island of bone) along with the impact of weight bearing activities can lead to inflammation and pain. Tight Achilles and calf muscles also can contribute to this problem, and why stretching is discussed later.
The typical clinical presentation is an active child (aged 9-10 years) who complains of pain at the posterior heel that is made worse by sports, especially those involving running or jumping. The onset is usually gradual. Often, the pain has been relieved somewhat with rest and consequently has been patiently monitored by the patient, parents, coaches, trainers, and family physicians, in the expectation that it will resolve. When the pain continues to interfere with sports performance and then with daily activities, further consultation is sought. It should be kept in mind that failure to instruct patients and parents that continual pain, significant swelling or redness, and fever are not signs of Sever disease and therefore require further evaluation could result in failure to diagnose a condition with much more serious long-term consequences.
Radiography. Most of the time radiographs are not helpful because the calcaneal apophysis is frequently fragmented and dense in normal children. But they can be used to exclude other traumas. Ultrasonography. could show the fragmentation of secondary nucleus of ossification of the calcaneus in severs?s disease. This is a safe diagnostic tool since there is no radiation. This diagnostic tool can also be used to exclude Achilles tendinitis and/or retrocalcaneal bursitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Ice the heel(s) well after exercise (until the area is cold and numb!) Stretch hamstring and calf muscles 2-3 times daily (exercises below) REST when pain becomes persistent or moderate (even if it means skipping games or practices.) Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. If symptoms persist, your child may need to see a physical therapist for additional exercises, and/or an orthopedist for othotics or temporary casting/crutches if pain is severe. Sever?s disease is self-recovering, meaning that it will go away on its own when the heels are rested or when the bone is through growing. The condition is not expected to create any long-term disability, and expected to subside in 2-8 weeks. However, pain can recur, for example at the start of a new sports season, several times if it is not taken care of.
Recovery time will vary from patient to patient. Age, health, previous injuries, and severity of symptoms will affect recovery time. Your compliance with the stretching program and the other recommendations made by your doctor will also determine your healing time. Heel pain often completely resolves after a child?s heel bone has stopped its period of growth.