If you?re a young basketballer/netballer/footballer and have heel pain when playing basketball or sports involving running or jumping, you may have a particular growth pain disorder called Sever?s Disease. It is a condition (not a disease) usually affecting 9-15 year olds that occurs at the back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon attaches to the foot. The Achilles tendon is the tendon connected to the calf muscles. Pulling of the calf muscles results in tension in the Achilles and in adolescents, repeated running/jumping can result in pain and inflammation at the heel, this is called Sever?s Disease.
Sever’s Disease typically affects boys and girls between 8-15 years of age. Risk factors include. Athletic activity that involves heel contact with hard surfaces, as in gymnastics, track, soccer, basketball, ice skating, ballet and aerobics. The wearing of ill-fitting shoes. Well-made shoes that fit properly are a must for every child. Prolonged periods of standing. If a child complains of heel pain after choir practice, doing dishes, standing in lines or other activities that put pressure on the heel bones, pay attention.
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.
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.
Non Surgical Treatment
The primary method of treating Sever?s disease is taking time off from sports and other physical activities to alleviate the pressure on the heel bone. During the healing period, your child?s doctor may also recommend physical therapy or any type of exercise that involves stretching and strengthen leg muscles and tendons. Wrapping ice in a towel and placing it under the child?s heel will also help to alleviate and reduce pain and swelling.
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.