The muscle group at the back of the lower leg is commonly called the calf. The calf comprises of 2 major muscles (known as the gastrocnemius and soleus) both of which insert into the heel bone via the Achilles tendon. In people who have not yet reached skeletal maturity, a growth plate exists where the Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone. This growth plate is primarily comprised of cartilage. Every time the calf contracts, it pulls on the Achilles tendon which in turn pulls on the heel's growth plate. When this tension is too forceful or repetitive, irritation to the growth plate may occur resulting in pain and sometimes an increased bony prominence at the back of the heel. This condition is called Severs disease. Severs disease is typically seen in children or adolescents during periods of rapid growth. This is because muscles and tendons become tighter as bones become longer. As a result, more tension is placed on the heel's growth plate.
The calcaneal apophysis develops as an independent center of ossification (possibly multiple). It appears in boys aged 9-10 years and fuses by age 17 years, it appears in girls at slightly younger ages. During the rapid growth surrounding puberty, the apophyseal line appears to be weakened further because of increased fragile calcified cartilage. Microfractures are believed to occur because of shear stress leading to the normal progression of fracture healing. This theory explains the clinical picture and the radiographic appearance of resorption, fragmentation, and increased sclerosis leading to eventual union. The radiographs showing fragmentation of the apophysis are not diagnostic, because multiple centers of ossification may exist in the normal apophysis, as noted. However, the degree of involvement in children displaying the clinical symptoms of Sever disease appears to be more pronounced. In a study of 56 male students from a soccer academy, of whom 28 had Sever disease and 28 were healthy control subjects, findings suggested that higher heel plantar pressures under dynamic and static conditions were associated with Sever disease, though it was not established whether the elevated pressures predisposed to or resulted from the disease. Gastrocnemius ankle equinus also appeared to be a predisposing factor.
Children aged between 8 to 13 years of age can experience Sever?s disease with girls being normally younger and boys slightly older. Sever?s disease normally involves the back of the heel bone becoming painful towards the end of intense or prolonged activity and can remain painful after the activity for a few hours. Severe cases can result in limping and pain that can even remain the next morning after sport.
In Sever's disease, heel pain can be in one or both heels. It usually starts after a child begins a new sports season or a new sport. Your child may walk with a limp. The pain may increase when he or she runs or jumps. He or she may have a tendency to tiptoe. Your child's heel may hurt if you squeeze both sides toward the very back. This is called the squeeze test. Your doctor may also find that your child's heel tendons have become tight.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but may include relative rest and modified activity, a physiotherapist can help work out what, and how much, activity to undertake. Cold packs, apply ice or cold packs to the back of the heels for around 15 minutes after any physical activity, including walking. Shoe inserts, small heel inserts worn inside the shoes can take some of the traction pressure off the Achilles tendons. This will only be required in the short term. Medication, pain-relieving medication may help in extreme cases, but should always be combined with other treatment and following consultation with your doctor). Anti-inflammatory creams are also an effective management tool. Splinting or casting, in severe cases, it may be necessary to immobilise the lower leg using a splint or cast, but this is rare. Time, generally the pain will ease in one to two weeks, although there may be flare-ups from time to time. Correction of any biomechanical issues, a physiotherapist can identify and discuss any biomechanical issues that may cause or worsen the condition. Education on how to self-manage the symptoms and flare-ups of Sever?s disease is an essential part of the treatment.
Once your child?s growth spurt ends, and she's reached full size, her Sever?s disease won?t return. Until then, the condition can happen again if your child stays very active. Some simple steps can help prevent it. Have your child. Wear supportive, shock-absorbing shoes. Stretch her calves, heels, and hamstrings. Not overdo it. Warn against over-training, and suggest plenty of rest, especially if she begins to feel pain in her heel. Try to avoid lots of running and pounding on hard surfaces. If she?s overweight, help her lose those extra pounds, which can increase pressure on her heels.