One of the most common complaints of youth athletes is heel pain. This generally occurs during the early portion of the growth phase around 8-10 years old, and can recur towards the end of growth, (14-16 years old). Symptoms are typically in the back portion of the heel, can occur unilaterally or bilaterally, usually having a gradual onset. The heel bone?s growth plate is in this area, which is immature soft bone and cartilage. A ?tug of war? occurs in this region from the foot growing longer and the leg bones getting taller, which puts tension on this heel bone area known as the calcaneal apophysis. The inflammation is called calcaneal apophysitis or ?Sever?s disease?.
Sever?s disease is common, and typically occurs during a child?s growth spurt, which can occur between the ages of 10 and 15 in boys and between the ages of 8 and 13 in girls. Feet tend to grow more quickly than other parts of the body, and in most kids the heel has finished growing by the age of 15. Being active in sports or participating in an activity that requires standing for long periods can increase the risk of developing Sever?s disease. In some cases, Sever?s disease first becomes apparent after a child begins a new sport, or when a new sports season starts. Sports that are commonly associated with Sever?s disease include track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics. Children who are overweight or obese are also at a greater risk of developing this condition. Certain foot problems can also increase the risk, including. Over pronating. Kids who over pronate (roll the foot inward) when walking may develop Sever?s disease. Flat foot or high arch. An arch that is too high or too low can put more stress on the foot and the heel, and increase the risk of Sever?s disease. Short leg. Children who have one leg that is shorter than the other may experience Sever?s disease in the foot of the shorter leg because that foot is under more stress when walking.
Athletes with Sever?s disease are typically aged 9 to 13 years and participate in running or jumping sports such as soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and gymnastics. The typical complaint is heel pain that develops slowly and occurs with activity. The pain is usually described like a bruise. There is rarely swelling or visible bruising. The pain is usually worse with running in cleats or shoes that have limited heel lift, cushion, and arch support. The pain usually goes away with rest and rarely occurs with low-impact sports such as bicycling, skating, or swimming.
Most often, a healthcare professional can diagnose Sever?s disease by taking a careful history and administering a few simple tests during the physical exam. A practitioner may squeeze the heel on either side; when this move produces pain, it may be a sign of Sever?s disease. The practitioner may also ask the child to stand on their tiptoes, because pain that occurs when standing in this position can also be an indication of Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
If your child lets you know that his heels are hurting, schedule a doctor’s appointment. Your family doctor may or may not refer you to a podiatrist. Treatment for Sever’s Disease typically consists of one or more of the following steps. Reducing physical activity. Because Sever’s Disease appears to be most common in athletic children, reducing exercise periods will relieve pressure on the heel bones, thereby reducing pain. Your doctor may recommend that your child take a complete break from athletic activity for a set amount of time. Icing the heel bones can help to lower both inflammation and pain levels. Use a cold pack or wrap ice in a towel and apply it to the heels. A new exercise regimen that involves simple stretches designed to lengthen the calf muscles and tendons. Your doctor may prescribe the use of orthotic shoe inserts that will assist your child in maintaining a good level of physical activity. HTP Heel Seats may be an excellent option and have been purchased by many parents as an effective aide for children suffering from Sever’s Disease. Read about HTP Heel Seats here and ask your doctor if they are right for your child’s unique case. In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a plaster cast or boot, but typically only if other less cumbersome solutions fail to reduce pain. Some doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. Never give these to a child yourself, without first seeking a doctor’s advice. Some medications carry the risk of serious side effects for children. Only give medications if specifically prescribed your child’s physician.
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.