Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, June 4th, 2012
There are many awful things about being a teenager: unwieldy growth spurts, dealing with the opposite sex, strange high school social rules, getting into college pressures, being embarrassed by your parents, suffering the agony of being the only person who knows everything. With all that, it seems almost unfair to add another problem, but let’s go ahead and do it anyway: Sever’s Disease.
We briefly touched on Sever’s Disease in our post about soccer injuries, but now let’s take a moment to find out a little bit more.
What is Sever’s Disease? It is a condition where the growth plate in the heel of children or teens is injured.
Umm, what’s a growth plate…? Glad you asked! Growth plates are areas of cartilage at the ends of some bones, such as the femur, tibia, or the heel. The growth plates add new bone to make the bones longer. That is essentially how you grow. When the growth plates close up, you’re done growing. The timing of this varies with individuals, but in general, growth finishes around ages 12 to 14 for girls, and 14 to 16 for boys.
So what’s the problem? Bones can grow faster than muscles and tendons, causing them to tighten up and become vulnerable to injury.
Oh, that’s annoying. Can I tell the muscles and tendons to get their act together and catch up to the growth of the bones? You can tell them, but they won’t listen.
Back to Sever’s disease–how does this all come together in your heel? The heel area in particular isn’t very flexible. When you’re on your feet a lot, the tight heel tendons can aggravate the Achilles tendons at the back of the heel, causing pain.
So do you get it from just standing? Maybe some can (hey, don’t underrate standing!), but it most often occurs in physically active children from about 8-12 years old or so. Soccer players and gymnasts are often at risk of developing Sever’s Disease, but it can really affect any child who runs and jumps a lot.
How do I know my child has Sever’s Disease? Kids will feel pain at the back of their heel when they’re involved in physical activity (like the aforementioned running and jumping). Look out for limping. If your child lets you touch his or her heel, squeeze it and see if that causes pain (“OWWW!! I told you not to touch it and now you made it hurt worse!! Why are you so mean to me?!!”). These are all pretty good signs that the child has Sever’s Disease, but for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, you should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).
What is the treatment? Have your child cut back on the activity that’s causing the pain, then have him or her ice the painful area a few times a day. A podiatrist will probably recommend a stretching program to help out the tight muscles that are causing the problem (you can find some good stretches here). A podiatrist may also recommend heel inserts that will lift the child’s heel a little, so the Achilles tendon isn’t stretched to such an extreme all the time.
The good news, though, is that you can tell your child that this is just a passing phase (“You say everything is just a phase! You don’t understand! You don’t respect me!”). No, seriously, this time it is just a phase.
If your child is experiencing heel pain that might be Sever’s Disease, or any other kind of foot or ankle problem, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.