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.
Severs disease is often associated with a rapid growth spurt. As the bones get longer, the muscles and tendons become tighter as they cannot keep up with the bone growth. The point at which the achilles tendon attaches to the heel becomes inflamed and the bone starts to crumble (a lot like osgood schlatters disease of the knee). Tight calf muscles may contribute as the range of motion at the ankle is reduced resulting in more strain on the achilles tendon. Sever’s disease is the second most common injury of this type which is known as an apophysitis.
Sever’s disease usually develops gradually. The pain from Sever’s disease is often intermittent and localized to the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus. Swelling may be noted in this area. There can be tenderness on squeezing the calcaneus or pain when trying to stretch the calf muscles. Occasionally there is night pain. As Sever’s disease progresses there can be continuous pain.
Most often, a healthcare professional can diagnose Sever?s disease by taking a careful history and administering a few simple tests during the physical exam. A practitioner may squeeze the heel on either side; when this move produces pain, it may be a sign of Sever?s disease. The practitioner may also ask the child to stand on their tiptoes, because pain that occurs when standing in this position can also be an indication of Sever?s disease.
Non Surgical Treatment
Initially, Sever?s Disease is treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and softer shoes. Ice followed by heat is a common practice and heel cup orthotics have worked wonders for our young patients in the past. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year for these growth plates to naturally close – at which point Sever?s Disease disappears. Even though the condition does heal on its own, athletes are encouraged to seek treatment, rather than push through the pain. Simply ?dealing with it? and continuing to play sports despite the injury could lead to an impaired gait, a strained hip or a knee injury. Stretches to strengthen the leg muscles, leg compression wraps and over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen are also recommended treatments. In very rare cases, a podiatrist may recommend wearing a cast for two to twelve weeks.