Kids are generally pretty indestructible, but young people in their teens and tweens are still vulnerable to a number of injuries and medical conditions caused by strenuous exercise and physical activity. Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a particularly common condition than can affect the feet of athletic youngsters.
What Is Sever's Disease?
The feet of growing children contain a plate of cartilage known as a calcaneus, which is located at the base of the heel. Once a child reaches maturity, this plate ossifies and becomes hard, robust bone, but until then, the relatively soft and flexible cartilage is much more vulnerable to heavy impacts and repetitive strain injuries.
Sever's disease occurs when the calcaneus in one of both feet becomes damaged and inflamed. This inflammation causes the damaged cartilage to become swollen and press on surrounding nerves inside the feet, causing heel pain that becomes more severe when pressure is placed on the affected heel.
Because adults do not possess calcaneal plates, Sever's disease only occurs in children, and will eventually resolve itself once the cartilage plate turns into bone. However, the pain caused by untreated Sever's disease can be quite severe.
Athletic performance can be severely affected, and the pain may cause your child to develop a limp, which can affect their future mobility and muscular growth. Sever's disease should therefore be treated as soon as possible, for the sake of your child's current and future well-being.
How Is Sever's Disease Treated?
If your child is complaining of heel pain that becomes worse when they exercise, take them to a sports podiatrist as soon as possible for a checkup and diagnosis. Because Sever's disease does not cause any noticeable redness or bruising, it must be conclusively diagnosed by a podiatrist before it can be treated.
In many cases, simple rest is enough to allow the damaged cartilage to heal. Compression bandages, ice packs, and elevating the affected foot or feet can also help to immobilise the damaged tissues and promote blood flow, speeding the healing process.
If these simple measures do not resolve the issue, a sports podiatrist can offer more targeted treatment. Shaped orthotic insoles can help take pressure off the damaged heel(s) while your child engages in sports or exercise. These shoe inserts are custom-made to match the unique contours of your child's foot and should be worn whenever your child is active.
Stretching exercises and physical therapy can also promote recovery and will increase the flexibility of the cartilaginous plates to prevent the disease from relapsing. A sports podiatrist will create a stretching and therapy routine tailored to your child's individual needs.