Sever?s disease is particularly prevalent among active children between ages 8 and 15. Young boys and girls who play soccer and other sports in which footwear is inappropriate-i.e. too narrow in the toe box, too rigid, etc. are most commonly affected. Sever?s disease usually appears during the adolescent growth spurt-the 2-year period in early puberty where children grow the quickest. The adolescent growth spurt occurs between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls and 10 and 15 in boys. Teenagers over 15 years old rarely experience this heel problem, as heel bone growth is usually complete by this age. Sever?s disease usually self-resolves within 6 months of onset, though it can last longer.
There are many biomechanical factors that predispose a young athlete to calcaneal apophysitis. The majority of patients will present with an ankle equinus deformity, which ultimately exerts an increased pulling force to the Achilles insertion and non-ossified apophysis. Furthermore, patients may present with hyperpronation of the rearfoot. This allows more of a ?teeter-totter? effect or lack of motion control on the frontal plane of the calcaneus.
Symptoms include Heel Pain. Pain at the back of the heels when walking or running. Possibly a lump at the back of the heel, although this might be minimal. Pain and tenderness at the back of the heels, especially if you press on it, or give it a squeeze from the sides. Tight calf muscles resulting in reduced ankle range of motion.
Sever disease is most often diagnosed clinically, and radiographic evaluation is believed to be unnecessary by many physicians, but if a diagnosis of calcaneal apophysitis is made without obtaining radiographs, a lesion requiring more aggressive treatment could be missed. Foot radiographs are usually normal and the radiologic identification of calcaneal apophysitis without the absence of clinical information was not reliable.
Non Surgical Treatment
Massage the calves gently from the knee to the heel, being especially careful around the Achilles? tendon, as this will be extremely tight and tender. During this massage, flex and point the foot through normal pain-free ranges of motion to increase flexibility while massaging. Massage every other or every third day, making sure your young athlete is not still sore before massaging again. If you?re unsure how to massage, find someone in your area that uses Graston technique or Active Release Therapy for best results. Stretch your athlete?s calves. This is the most overlooked aspect of treatment for Sever?s Disease and this needs to be done every day after practice, and when first starting we recommend 2-3 times per day, allowing gravity to pull heel down, never forcing the stretch. Ice your heels, but don?t just put an ice pack there. Use a cold water soak to fully immerse the foot and calves up to the knee. We recommend using a rubbermaid can found here. Soak for 10-15 minutes. The water does not have to be frigid, just cold. Use cold water from the tap, insert the foot, then add some ice to help bring down the temperature. When your athlete is experiencing pain, ice every hour, on the hour, for as many times as possible in one day. Make sure the heel/calves are body temperature before beginning again. Support the arches. This is what has been shown in studies to reduce pain in young athletes with Sever?s Disease. If you miss out on this one, you miss out on relieving your athletes pain.
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.