Calcaneal Apophysitis Facts And Figures

Overview

Sever's Disease is not a disease in the sense of an infection or other chronic pathology but is an injury/irritation of a growth plate. The Calcaneal growth plate or growth plate in the heel bone has attachments from the achilles tendon and the plantar fascia. Pull from either or both of these structures can cause enough motion within the apophysis or growth plate space to create irritation and inflammation which can be quite painful and limiting. This can start when the growth plate is still wide open but is more often seen as the growth plate starts to close further limiting its ability to move with the traction of soft tissue attachments. It was believed by Sever that fractures within the growth plate were the source of the discomfort. When looking at a growth plate that has started to close it can appear to be fragmented into 2 or 3 pieces. It has since been proven that this is the normal appearance of a closing growth plate.

Causes

The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. During the time of growth, bones grow faster than muscles and tendons. This results in the muscles and tendons becoming tight. The strongest tendon that attaches to the heel is the Achilles Tendon. It attaches to the back of the heel at the site of the growth plate, and during sports activities it pulls with great force on the growth plate. If this pull by the tight Achilles Tendon (calf muscle) continues for long periods of time, the growth plate may become inflamed and painful. If exertive activities continue, Sever's Disease may result.

Symptoms

Athletes with Sever?s disease are typically aged 9 to 13 years and participate in running or jumping sports such as soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and gymnastics. The typical complaint is heel pain that develops slowly and occurs with activity. The pain is usually described like a bruise. There is rarely swelling or visible bruising. The pain is usually worse with running in cleats or shoes that have limited heel lift, cushion, and arch support. The pain usually goes away with rest and rarely occurs with low-impact sports such as bicycling, skating, or swimming.

Diagnosis

You may have pain when your doctor squeezes your heel bone. You may have pain when asked to stand or walk on your toes or on your heels. You may have pain in your heel when your doctor stretches your calf muscles. Your doctor may order x-rays of the injured foot to show an active growth plate.

Non Surgical Treatment

Occasionally, an orthotic may need to be prescribed for temporary or long-term correction of their foot biomechanics (eg flat feet or high arches). During the acute phase of Sever's disease a small heel rise or shock-absorbing heel cup placed under the heel pad of your child's foot may help to ease the symptoms. Your podiatrist or physiotherapist can assess your child's arch and guide you in the best management of your child's condition. We recommend that your child should never go barefooted during the painful stages of Sever's disease.

Surgical Treatment

The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.

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