Coping With Severs Disease

Overview

Sever?s disease is an inflammation of the growth plate in the heel, which is an area at the end of the developing bone where cartilage gradually turns into bone as kids grow. In fact, kids grow so rapidly at this age that their muscles and tendons can?t quite keep up with their feet and legs. This leaves the muscles and tendons tight and overstretched, particularly the Achilles tendon that connects the heel to the calf muscles. In fast-growing preteen and teen athletes, it can put so much pressure on the heel?s growth plate that it swells and becomes tender.

Causes

During the growth spurt of early puberty, the heel bone (also called the calcaneus) sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles and tendons to become very tight and overstretched, making the heel less flexible and putting pressure on the growth plate. The Achilles tendon (also called the heel cord) is the strongest tendon that attaches to the growth plate in the heel. Over time, repeated stress (force or pressure) on the already tight Achilles tendon damages the growth plate, causing the swelling, tenderness, and pain of Sever’s disease. Such stress commonly results from physical activities and sports that involve running and jumping, especially those that take place on hard surfaces, such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics.

Symptoms

Sever condition causes pain at the back of the heel. The pain is increased with plantar flexion of the ankle (pushing down with the foot as if stepping on the gas), particularly against resistance. Sever condition also causes tenderness and swelling in the area of the pain.

Diagnosis

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

The disease can be treated easily and is considered to be temporary, if treated promptly and correctly. If left untreated or if treated improperly, the disease can result in a permanent heel deformity, causing future shoe-fitting difficulties. Other long-term effects can include foot arch problems, potentially resulting in plantar fasciitis or heel spurs and tight calf musculature, which can lead to Achilles tendonitis. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends the following steps, once Sever?s disease has been diagnosed. Reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help reduce the pain and inflammation. Stretching and/or physical therapy may be used to promote healing. In severe cases, a cast may be used to keep the foot and ankle immobilized during the healing process.

Recovery

One of the most important things to know about Sever’s disease is that, with proper care, the condition usually goes away within 2 weeks to 2 months and does not cause any problems later in life. The sooner Sever’s disease is addressed, the quicker recovery is. Most kids can return to physical activity without any trouble once the pain and other symptoms go away.


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