During AGS, and in specific reference to Sever?s disease, the heel bone grows faster than the Achilles tendon, resulting in an extremely tight Achilles tendon. Because the foot is one of the first parts of the body to grow to full size, and because the heel is not a very flexible area, it is especially susceptible to injury. 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 (such as impact activities) on the tight Achilles tendon causes the tendon to pull on and damage the growth plate in the heel, resulting in swelling, tenderness, and pain.
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.
The pain is at the heel or around the Achilles tendon. This is felt commonly during exercise, particularly activities involving running or jumping. The back of the heel may also be tender to touch and there may be localised swelling. There may be stiffness in the calf muscles first thing in the morning and you may notice limping or a tendency to tiptoe.
To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close – at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.
Although Sever’s disease generally heals quickly, it can recur if long-term measures are not taken to protect the heel during a child’s growing years. One of the most important is to make sure that kids wear proper shoes. Good quality, well-fitting shoes with shock-absorbent (padded) soles help to reduce pressure on the heel. The doctor may also recommend shoes with open backs, such as sandals or clogs, that do not rub on the back of the heel. Shoes that are heavy or have high heels should be avoided. Other preventive measures include continued stretching exercises and icing of the affected heel after activity.