If your child or adolescent develops heel pain, chances are it’s due to Sever disease, which is also known as calcaneal apophysitis. Sever disease is one of the most common sources of heel pain in adolescents and most commonly affects children between the age of 6-13 who are active and involved in sports. Sever is an irritation or inflammation of the heel bone growth plate which is a result of the heel bone growing faster than the surrounding muscles and tendons. Along with repetitive microtrauma, these tight tissues cause increased pull on the growth plate, which results in pain. It is commonly seen in soccer players. Traditionally Sever used to be more common in boys; however, due to the increasing number of girls involved in organized sports, it is becoming more common in the female population.
Sever disease will eventually resolve on its own without any long-term complications. All treatments are symptom based and some children may have to decrease or take off some time from sports until the pain goes away. In some severe cases, children may have to be immobilized in a walking boot for a couple of weeks until the pain subsides. Sever patients commonly have a tight Achilles tendon, so stretching exercises are very important to help try to decrease some of the pull on the growth plate. Anti-inflammatories and ice are also recommended. Return to activity is based on relief of symptoms and should be done gradually. When returning to play, gel heel cups can be used in the cleats or sneakers in order to help provide some cushion.
—Dr. Colleen Law