Sever?s disease is repetitive micro trauma or overuse of the heel in young athletes. Sever?s is caused by overloading the insertion of the Achilles tendon onto the calcaneus and the apophyseal growth plate. Active Children (7 to 15 years), particularly during the pubertal growth spurt or at the beginning of a sport season (e.g. gymnasts, basketball and football players), often suffer from this condition.
Apart from age, other factors that may contribute to developing Sever?s disease include physical activity, any form of exercise that is weight bearing through the legs or stresses the soft tissue can exacerbate the pain of the disease. External factors, for example, running on hard surfaces or wearing inappropriate shoes during sport. Overuse injury, very active children may repeatedly but subtly injure the bones, muscles and tendons of their feet and ankles. In time, the accumulated injuries cause symptoms.
Sever’s Disease is most commonly seen in physically active girls and boys from ages 10 to 15 years old. These are the years when the growth plate is still “”open,”” and has not fused into mature bone. Also, these are the years when the growth plate is most vulnerable to overuse injuries, which are usually caused by sports activities. The most common symptoms of this disease include. Heel pain in one or both heels. Usually seen in physically active children, especially at the beginning of a new sports season. The pain is usually experienced at the back of the heel, and includes the following areas. The back of the heel (that area which rubs against the back of the shoe). The sides of the heel. Actually, this is one of the diagnostic tests for Sever’s Disease, squeezing the rear portion of the heel from both sides at the same time will produce pain. It is known as the Squeeze Test.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment for Sever?s disease is mainly supportive, to stop inflammation and reduce pain. The condition will resolve on its own when the growth in the growth plate is complete, but until then, measures can be taken to resolve pain and discomfort. Applying ice to the painful or swollen areas on the foot may provide some short-term relief from pain and prevent further inflammation. Ice can be applied for about 20 minutes two or three times a day. Footwear that is too big, too small, or does not provide proper support can exacerbate the symptoms of Sever?s disease. Supportive footwear is important to prevent discomfort, especially in children who participate in sports and activities that take place on a hard surface (such as pavement or a basketball court). Shoes should also have adequate padding and not rub against the heel. In some cases, shoes that do not have heels (such as sandals) may be more comfortable to wear while the heel is healing, but care should be taken that the shoe provides proper support to the rest of the foot. Children with Sever?s disease should avoid going barefoot.Children with flat feet, high arches, or over-pronation may need treatment to resolve these underlying conditions. In many cases, an orthotic worn inside the shoe can help put the foot into a better alignment and provide relief to the foot or the arch. Children who are overweight or obese may be counseled to lose weight. Being overweight can contribute to the development of several conditions, including Sever?s disease. Resting the foot and discontinuing sports and other activities until the pain and stiffness is resolved may be recommended. In extreme cases, a walking boot or a cast might be used to completely immobilize the foot. A physical therapist may recommend stretching exercises for the muscles in the calf and the Achilles tendon. A stretching routine is usually done several times a day. Stretching these muscles can help improve strength and decrease the stress on the heel plate. Some physicians may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Care must be taken when administering these medications to children, especially with acetaminophen, as overdoses are possible when using more than one medication containing acetaminophen. Aspirin should never be given to children. The utility of pain relievers in children must be weighed against their possible side effects. For small variations-less than an inch or so-shoe lifts can help equalize the length of the legs. In cases with more variation between legs, surgical solutions may be considered. Research indicates that targeted manual therapy techniques performed by a licensed physical therapist can help to reduce pain from Sever?s Disease and to improve muscle function. When the larger calf muscles and the smaller ankle and foot muscles become tight, this tightness can affect the mechanics of the ankle joint. Manual therapy includes both joint and muscle release techniques to restore optimal function to the calf, ankle, and foot muscles, and results can generally be achieved within a few months.
For children with Sever’s disease, it is important to habitually perform exercises to stretch the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. Stretching should be performed 2-3 times a day. Each stretch should be performed for 20 seconds, and both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in one heel. Heel cups or an inner shoe heel lifts are often recommended for patient suffering from Sever’s disease. Wearing running shoes with built in heel cups can also decrease the symptoms because they can help soften the impact on the heel when walking, running, or standing.