Physical Therapy And Severs Disease

Overview

The condition is more common in young people active in sport, and boys are more frequently affected than girls. One study found the average age of presentation was around 12 years for boys and 9 years for girls. In one prospective study of injuries among players aged 9-19 years in football academies, 2% of overall football injuries were due to Sever’s disease; the peak for incidence was in the under-11 age group. In a study of 85 children, the condition was bilateral in 61%.

Causes

This condition is more common in boys than girls. It generally presents between the ages of 9-14 and peaks between ages 10-12 years. This injury can reoccur up until the age of 17, when the growth plate of the calcaneous generally closes. These types of injuries will commonly occur during periods of rapid growth. Sever?s Disease occurs more frequently in child with flat feet, but all children with flat feet will not get Sever?s.

Symptoms

Patients with Severs disease typically experience pain that develops gradually in the back of the heel or Achilles region. In less severe cases, patients may only experience an ache or stiffness in the heel that increases with rest (especially at night or first thing in the morning). This typically occurs following activities which require strong or repetitive contraction of the calf muscles, such as running (especially uphill) or during sports involving running, jumping or hopping. The pain associated with this condition may also warm up with activity in the initial stages of the condition. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during activity and affect performance. Pain may also increase when performing a calf stretch or heel raise (i.e. rising up onto tip toes). In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp, have difficulty putting their heel down, or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Pain may also increase on firmly touching the affected region and occasionally a bony lump may be palpable or visible at the back of the heel. This condition typically presents gradually overtime and can affect either one or both lower limbs.

Diagnosis

Low-grade inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis cannot be seen on x-ray. Therefore, although x-rays are often done to rule out bony injuries in children with Sever’s disease these x-rays are usually normal. Advanced Sever’s disease can be seen on x-ray but usually the problem is treated before it reaches this point. Other diagnostic tests, such as bone scans or MRI’s, are not usually required in typical cases of Sever’s disease. These, or other tests, may be required to rule out other conditions, such as stress fractures of the calcaneus or other bony abnormalities that can mimic Severs disease.

Non Surgical Treatment

Reduce activity, avoid going barefoot, and cushion the child’s heel with shock absorbency. It is very important that your child wear shoes with padded heel surfaces and shoes with good arch supports even when not participating in sports. A heel cup or soft pediatric shoe insert is very important to reduce the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and to increase shock absorption and reduce irritation. The use of an ice pack after activity for 20 minutes is often useful. Your health care provider may also prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or custom orthotics.

Prevention

Sever’s disease may be prevented by maintaining good joint and muscle flexibility in the years leading up to, and during, their growth spurts (eg girls 8 to 10, boys 10 to 12). Foot arch problems such as flat feet should be addressed after the age of five if they don’t appear to be self-correcting. If you are concerned, please ask your health practitioner. The most important factor is the amount of weight-bearing exercise your child is currently performing.