Sever?s disease occurs in children when the growing part of the heel is injured. This growing part is called the growth plate. The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. This usually occurs in early puberty. During this time, bones often grow faster than muscles and tendons. As a result, muscles and tendons become ?tight.? The heel area is less flexible. During weight-bearing activity (activity performed while standing), the tight heel tendons may put too much pressure at the back of the heel (where the Achilles tendon attaches). This may injure the heel.
The calcaneal apophysis develops as an independent center of ossification (possibly multiple). It appears in boys aged 9-10 years and fuses by age 17 years, it appears in girls at slightly younger ages. During the rapid growth surrounding puberty, the apophyseal line appears to be weakened further because of increased fragile calcified cartilage. Microfractures are believed to occur because of shear stress leading to the normal progression of fracture healing. This theory explains the clinical picture and the radiographic appearance of resorption, fragmentation, and increased sclerosis leading to eventual union. The radiographs showing fragmentation of the apophysis are not diagnostic, because multiple centers of ossification may exist in the normal apophysis, as noted. However, the degree of involvement in children displaying the clinical symptoms of Sever disease appears to be more pronounced. In a study of 56 male students from a soccer academy, of whom 28 had Sever disease and 28 were healthy control subjects, findings suggested that higher heel plantar pressures under dynamic and static conditions were associated with Sever disease, though it was not established whether the elevated pressures predisposed to or resulted from the disease. Gastrocnemius ankle equinus also appeared to be a predisposing factor.
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.
Your podiatrist will take a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical examination including a gait analysis. The assessment will include foot posture assessment, joint flexibility (or range of motion), biomechanical assessment of the foot, ankle and leg, foot and leg muscle strength testing, footwear assessment, school shoes and athletic footwear, gait analysis, to look for abnormalities in the way the feet move during gait, Pain provocation tests eg calcaneal squeeze test. X-rays are not usually required to diagnose Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment aim is to lessen the load on the insertion of the Achilles tendon, along with pain relief if necessary. This can be achieved by modifying/reducing activity levels. Shoe inserts or heel raises. Calf stretches. Avoiding barefoot walking. Strapping or taping the foot to reduce movement. Orthotic therapy if due to biomechanical causes. Other treatment includes icing of the painful area to reduce swelling, pain medication if necessary and immobilisation of the affected limb in severe or long standing cases.
Sever?s disease may be prevented by maintaining good flexibility while your child is growing. The stretching exercises mentioned here can lower your child?s risk for injuries during the growth spurt. Good-quality shoes with firm support and a shock-absorbent sole will help. Your child should avoid excessive running on hard surfaces. If your child has already recovered from Sever?s disease, stretching and putting ice on the heel after activity will help keep your child from getting this condition again.