Calcaneal Apophysitis The Truth

Overview

Sever’s disease is a disorder that commonly occurs in active children between the ages of 9 and 13 years of age. Even though it is misnamed as a disease, it is actually a self-limiting disorder that occurs around the growth plate in the back of the heel. The Achilles tendon attaches to the upper portion of the heel growth plate. On the bottom of the growth plate is an attachment of a ligament known as the plantar fascia. With increased activity, there is a pulling or tugging that occurs on this growth plate, and a portion of the growth plate is being pulled away from its attachment to the heel. X-rays are often taken to verify the position and location of this growth plate.

Causes

Sever?s disease is an osteochondrosis caused by overloading the insertion of the Achilles tendon onto the calcaneus and the apophyseal growth plate in this area. This C-shaped growth zone can become inflamed secondary to repetitive traction stress of the Achilles tendon. Calcaneal apophysitis is a common injury in young athletes and is believed to be caused by running and jumping. Active Children and adolescents (usual age of occurrence 7 to 15 years), particularly during the pubertal growth spurt or at the beginning of a sport season (e.g. gymnasts, basketball and football players), often suffer from this condition. This disease occurs most commonly during the early part of the growth spurt. A boy-to-girl ratio is 2-3:1. None of these causative factors has been tested prospectively and, where tested, none of the measurements has been carried out systematically, and reliability or validity of the measurements has not been considered.

Symptoms

Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping or are high impact. Pain is often worse after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.

Diagnosis

A doctor or other health professional such as a physiotherapist can diagnose Sever?s disease by asking the young person to describe their symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. In some instances, an x-ray may be necessary to rule out other causes of heel pain, such as heel fractures. Sever?s disease does not show on an x-ray because the damage is in the cartilage.

Non 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.

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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