Severs Disease The Facts

Overview

Sever?s disease is similar to Osgood-Schlatter disease of the knee in that they both involve a partial detachment or tearing of the tendon from the bone. The difference is location: Osgood-Schlatter occurs at the knee, and Sever?s occurs at the ankle. In Sever?s disease, which usually occurs in children from the ages of 8 to 14, the Achilles tendon begins to tear away from its insertion into the calcaneus or heel bone. This injury can be very painful and affect highly active to somewhat inactive children. Symptoms include pain that increases with activity, localized pain in the back of the foot, tenderness to the touch, and swelling. Treatment includes rest, ice, compression, elevation, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication as necessary.

Causes

Sever disease, like other similar conditions (eg, Osgood-Schlatter disease, little-leaguer's elbow, and iliac apophysitis), is believed to be caused by decreased resistance to shear stress at the bone-growth plate interface. Studies have indicated that traction apophyses have a higher composition of fibrocartilage than epiphyses subjected more to axial load, which are composed predominantly of hyaline cartilage. The anatomy of the calcaneal apophysis lends to significant shear stress because of its vertical orientation and the direction of pull from the strong gastrocnemius-soleus muscle group.

Symptoms

Symptoms include heel pain related to sports activities and worsen after those sport and exercise activities. However, some children who are not in a sport may also get this if they are physically active. If you notice that your child is ?walking on their toes? this is a sign of possible heel pain. The pain is usually on the back of the heel, the sides of the heel, the bottom of the heel, or a combination of all of these. We typically don't see swelling with this, however if pressure is applied to the sides of the heel pain may be reported. Sometimes the pain is so bad the child will have to limp, or take a break from sports activity either for a few days or few months.

Diagnosis

To diagnose the cause of the child?s heel pain and rule out other more serious conditions, the foot and ankle surgeon obtains a thorough medical history and asks questions about recent activities. The surgeon will also examine the child?s foot and leg. X-rays are often used to evaluate the condition. Other advanced imaging studies and laboratory tests may also be ordered.

Non Surgical Treatment

Stretching programs. Strengthening exercises. Exercise and training modification. Orthotic therapy. In rare cases, where fragmentation of the apophysis exists and pain fails to subside with traditional treatments then immobilization of the foot and ankle with a short leg pneumatic walker(walking cast) is indicated.

Prevention

The old adage, "An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is most appropriate when trying to prevent the effects of Sever's Disease. If this condition is not prevented, or treated in its earliest stages, it may cause the child to stop certain sports activities until the growth plate has fused and matured (this usually occurs around the age of 16 years old). Long Term Treatment and Prevention must be directed towards protecting the growth plate at the back of the heel during a child's growing years. Being aware of the following best does this. If the child is very active in sports that require repetitive and exertive activities, then the parents must be vigilant when it comes to the child's gait, watching to see if he or she is limping, walking on their toes, or complaining of heel pain when weight-bearing. These may be "early warning signs" of Sever's Disease. Along with these signs, if your child has any of the Predisposing Hereditary Factors listed above, the chances of Sever's Disease occurring increased.

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