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?.
During the growth spurt of early puberty, the bones often grow faster than the leg muscles and tendons. This can cause the muscles to become very tight and overstretched, the heel becomes less flexible and this build-up of pressure can result in redness, swelling, tenderness and pain at the heel.
Symptoms include Heel Pain. Pain at the back of the heels when walking or running. Possibly a lump at the back of the heel, although this might be minimal. Pain and tenderness at the back of the heels, especially if you press on it, or give it a squeeze from the sides. Tight calf muscles resulting in reduced ankle range of motion.
A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.
Non Surgical Treatment
Depending on the underlying cause, treatment can include. Arch supports (foot orthoses) to correctly support the feet. Proper taping of the foot and heel. Rest from activities. Icing at the end of the day. A night splint worn at night. Flexibility exercises and strengthening. Ultrasound therapy. Anti-inflammatory drugs.
This condition is self limiting, it will go away when the two parts of bony growth join together, this is natural. Unfortunately, Sever's disease can be very painful and limit sport activity of the child while waiting for it to go away, so treatment is often advised to help relieve it. In a few cases of Sever's disease, the treatment is not successful and these children will be restricted in their activity levels until the two growth areas join, usually around the age of 16 years. There are no known long term complications associated with Sever's disease.