As children start to get more active during the warmer months of the year, Severs Disease becomes a common issue for many young athletes. Severs Disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a common inflammatory condition of the open growth plate at the heel bone or calcaneus. The heel bone and surrounding structures are still developing at this age range, and the extensive pressure (often repetitive in nature) as well as the position of the foot during many sports can cause stress at the heel bone.
This condition affects active children between the ages of seven and fourteen. Children may limp or complain of heel pain that is worse when the heel is squeezed. Increased walking, running, or changing position rapidly can cause the pain. Addditonally, the child may start walking on their toes to avoid pressure on the heel. These symptoms may start with a new sport or at the beginning of a new season of an old sport.
The good news is that Severs Disease eventually resolves on its own, without treatment. However, many children are uncomfortable, and conservative modalities can be implemented sooner to make the heel more comfortable. Icing, rest, stretching, heel cups, orthotic devices (foot inserts), medication, and physical therapy are great ways to reduce the child's pain. X-rays are often taken at the podiatry office to make sure there are no other reasons for the child's heel pain. Occasionally, other radiological or laboratory tests will be ordered.
For active children in this age range, prevention is also important. Stretching, supportive and properly fitting shoes, maintaining a healthy weight, and orthotic devices for children with flat feet or other foot deformities are helpful preventative measures.
If your child has this condition, please schedule your appointment with Dr. Mary Ann Bender, the foot and ankle specialist at Advanced Physical Medicine. Dr. Bender is a clinical instructor at William Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine and has office hours by appointment at the APM locations in Oak Park and on 63rd Street in Chicago. Please call 708-763-0580 for your appointment.