Understanding Sever’s Disease: A Podiatrist’s Guide for Parents and Coaches
As a podiatrist, I am constantly seeing young athletes who are suffering from Sever's disease, a condition that causes heel pain in children and adolescents. This is a common issue at this time of year, as many children and teenagers are involved in sports such as soccer, netball, and Australian Rules football.
Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a condition that affects the growth plate in the heel bone. During periods of growth, the growth plate can become inflamed and painful. This condition is most common in children between the ages of 8 and 14, as this is a period of rapid growth and development. The condition is more common in boys than girls, and it is also more common in children who are overweight or have tight calf muscles.
One of the main reasons why Sever's disease is an issue at this time of year in Australia is because many children and adolescents are involved in sports that require a lot of running and jumping. This can put a lot of stress on the heels, which can exacerbate the condition. Additionally, many children and adolescents are going back to school after the summer holidays, which means that they are spending more time on their feet and walking around the school grounds.
Symptoms of Sever's disease include heel pain, tenderness, swelling, and redness. The pain is usually worse during and after physical activity, and it may improve with rest. If left untreated, Sever's disease can cause significant discomfort and prevent participation in sport.
Fortunately, there are several things that parents and coaches can do to help prevent Sever's disease and manage the symptoms if it does occur. Firstly, it is important to ensure that children and adolescents have properly fitted shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning. Shoes should also have a wide toe box to allow for natural foot movement. Heel lifts can be added in the short term to help reduce the stress on the achilles tendon.
Stretching and strengthening exercises can also be helpful in preventing Sever's disease. Regular stretching of the calf muscles can help to improve flexibility and reduce stress on the heels. This can be done through simple exercises such as wall stretches or using a foam roller.
If a child or adolescent does develop Sever's disease, it is important to rest and avoid physical activity until the pain has subsided. Ice and over-the-counter pain medication can be helpful in managing the pain and reducing inflammation. In severe cases, a podiatrist may recommend orthotics or manual therapy to help correct any underlying biomechanical issues that may be contributing to the condition.
Sever's disease is a common condition that affects many children and adolescents who are involved in sports and other physical activities. It is important for parents, coaches, and healthcare professionals to be aware of the symptoms and take steps to prevent and manage the condition. By providing proper footwear, encouraging stretching exercises, and seeking medical attention when necessary, we can help young athletes stay healthy and active all year round.