Sever's disease is a pain that occurs in the back of the heel of physically active children at around the time of puberty. Sever's disease occurs due to an inflammation of the growth plate due to excessive pull of the achilles tendon on this growth plate. During puberty the bones quite often grow faster than the muscles and tendons causing the tendons to become tight, this tightness then results in excessive pull on the back of the heel resulting in this painful condition.
There are several theories surrounding the cause of Sever?s disease. These range from a tight Achilles tendon, to micro stress fractures of the heel, to biomechanical mal-alignment, to trauma, to flat feet, and even to obesity. But the prevailing theory suggests the onset of Sever?s disease occurs when the child's growth plate is at its weakest, while a tightened Achilles tendon pulls repeatedly on the growth plate, such as during AGS.
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.
Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a "squeeze test" and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include decrease ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.
Non Surgical Treatment
Fortunately Severs? disease can be treated and prevented through a number of different techniques that have all proven highly effective. The heel will repair itself even without active treatment provided that the suffering foot is given a chance to heal. Typically Severs? disease will take 2-8 weeks, although in many cases it can take longer as the continuous growing of the bone can exacerbate the condition. Podiatrists have an important role in preventing Severs? disease in young athletes, and in treating the condition when it develops so children can get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Generally treatment involves stretching muscles running down to the heel to relieve tension and pain, these include the hamstrings and calf muscles, and these stretching exercises will need to be performed at least 2 or 3 times a day. RICE is a classic method of speeding up the recovery of self-healing injuries like Severs? disease. This involves Rest, the application of Ice to the injury, Compression, and finally Elevation to encourage repaid. These measures can be advised by a trained podiatrist, but it is then up to a child to carry on with regular RICE.
Stretching exercises can help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches 2 or 3 times a day. Each stretch should be held for about 20 seconds. Both legs should be stretched, even if the pain is only in 1 heel. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, your child should sit on the floor, keeping his or her hurt leg straight. One end of a bungee cord or piece of rubber tubing is hooked around a table leg. The other end is hitched around the child's toes. The child then scoots back just far enough to stretch the cord. Next, the child slowly bends the foot toward his or her body. When the child cannot bend the foot any closer, he or she slowly points the foot in the opposite direction (toward the table). This exercise (15 repetitions of "foot curling") should be done about 3 times. The child should do this exercise routine a few times daily.