What Are The Causes Of Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

Sever's Disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a disease of the growth plate of the heel bone (calcaneus) and is characterized by pain in the heel of a child's foot, typically brought on by some form of injury or minor trauma from sports participation. This condition is most common in children ages 9 to 14 and is frequently seen in active soccer, football, or baseball players. Sport shoes with cleats are also known to aggravate the condition. The disease can mimic Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon attached to the back of the heel. A tight Achilles tendon contributes to Sever's Disease by pulling excessively on the growth plate of the heel bone. Feet that flatten out to excess (hyperpronate) are also prone to this problem, as this can involve extra torque on the calcaneus by the Achilles tendon.

Causes

Overuse and stress on the heel bone through participation in sports is a major cause of calcaneal apophysitis. The heel?s growth plate is sensitive to repeated running and pounding on hard surfaces, resulting in muscle strain and inflamed tissue. For this reason, children and adolescents involved in soccer, track, or basketball are especially vulnerable. Other potential causes of calcaneal apophysitis include obesity, a tight Achilles tendon, and biomechanical problems such as flatfoot or a high-arched foot.

Symptoms

Sever?s disease is more common in boys. They tend to have later growth spurts and typically get the condition between the ages of 10 and 15. In girls, it usually happens between 8 and 13. Symptoms can include pain, swelling, or redness in one or both heels, tenderness and tightness in the back of the heel that feels worse when the area is squeezed. Heel pain that gets worse after running or jumping, and feels better after rest. The pain may be especially bad at the beginning of a sports season or when wearing hard, stiff shoes like soccer cleats. Trouble walking. Walking or running with a limp or on tip toes.

Diagnosis

A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot.

Non Surgical Treatment

The primary method of treating Sever?s disease is taking time off from sports and other physical activities to alleviate the pressure on the heel bone. During the healing period, your child?s doctor may also recommend physical therapy or any type of exercise that involves stretching and strengthen leg muscles and tendons. Wrapping ice in a towel and placing it under the child?s heel will also help to alleviate and reduce pain and swelling.

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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