The calcaneal apophysis is a growth center where the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia attach to the heel. It first appears in children aged 7 to 8 years. By ages 12 to 14 years the growth center matures and fuses to the heel bone. Injuries can occur from excessive tension on the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, or from direct impact on the heel. Excessive stress on this growth center can cause irritation of the heel, also called Sever?s disease.
Physically active children run the risk of developing Sever?s disease because they put the most strain on their growing bones. Sever?s usually occurs during the adolescent growth spurt, when young people grow most rapidly. (This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.) By age 15 the back of the heel usually finished growing. As teens grow, the growth plates harden and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone. Young people engaged in physical activities and sports that involve jumping and running on hard surfaces-such as track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics-are ata higher risk for developing Sever?s disease. Poor-fitting shoes can contribute by not providing enough support or padding for the feet or by rubbing against the back of the heel.
The symptoms of Sever?s disease occur in the heel and the foot, and may worsen with activity. Pain and stiffness can occur in one or both heels. Symptoms can include. Swelling in the heel. Redness in the heel. Antalgic gait (such as limping). Foot pain or stiffness first thing in the morning or while walking. Pain that is worsened by squeezing the heel.
Your Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will assist in diagnosing the injury and the extent of the damage. From this, they will develop a management plan which may include rest or activity modification, soft tissue treatment such as massage and stretching, correction of biomechanics through heel raises or orthoses and the progression through a series of specific strengthening exercises.
Non Surgical Treatment
First, your child should cut down or stop any activity that causes heel pain. Apply ice to the injured heel for 25 minutes three times a day. Your child should not go barefoot. If your child has severe heel pain, ibuprofen (Advil) will help. It is important that your child performs exercises to stretch the hamstring and calf muscles, and the tendons on the back of the leg. The child should do these stretches five times each, two or three times a day. Each stretch should be held for 20 seconds. Your child also needs to do exercises to strengthen the muscles on the front of the shin. To do this, have your child stand facing a wall to stretch the calves and the heel cord. Place one foot a shoulder?s width in front of the other, both feet facing the wall. The front knee is bent and the back knee is straight during the calf stretch. Then have your child push against the wall and feel the stretch in his or her back leg. To stretch out the heel cord, have him or her stay in the same position and bend the back knee. Repeat three times. Practice this stretch twice daily.