Dealing With Severs Disease

Overview


Sever?s Disease is one of the most common overuse sports injuries in the U.S. It may not receive the street cred that plantar fasciitis gets, but this painful condition affecting the heel routinely affects child athletes, usually from eight to thirteen years of age, right when the bones are coming together. The pounding force causes inflammation between the bones, according to YNN, as well as injury to the growth plates themselves. While the ?disease? classification may sound scary, it?s actually a quite normal overuse sports injury that does not typically persist into adulthood.


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


Severs causes swelling, pain and tenderness over the back of the heel. Your child may walk with a limp. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. The swelling increases and is painful when touched or knocked. It commonly affects boys who are having a growth spurt during their pre-teen or teenage years. One or both knees may be affected.


Diagnosis


The x-ray appearance usually shows the apophysis to be divided into multiple parts. Sometimes a series of small fragments is noted. Asymptomatic heels may also show x-ray findings of resporption, fragmentation and increased density. But they occur much less often in the normal foot. Pulling or ?traction? of the Achilles tendon on the unossified growth plate is a likely contributing factor to Sever?s disease. Excessive pronation and a tight Achilles and limited dorsiflexion may also contribute to the development of this condition.


Non Surgical Treatment


Depending on the diagnosis and the severity of the pain, there a number of treatment options available. Rest, reduce activity, your child should reduce or stop any activity that causes pain, such as sports and running. This can be a difficult option, as children are normally quite willful in pursuit of their favorite pastimes. Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (found in Nurofen), to help reduce pain and inflammation. Make certain your child does stretching exercises before play. This will often help reduce the stress on the fascia and relieve heel pain in your child. Orthotic insoles. Orthotics made for children will help support the foot properly, and help prevent over-pronation or improper gait by supporting your child?s foot into a proper biomechanical position. Do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist, should your child?s heel and foot pain persist.


Recovery


Receiving the initial diagnosis of Sever?s disease can be scary, and while the situation is painful, there is good news. If treated properly and quickly, Sever?s disease is temporary and will have no long-term effects on the athlete.

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