The calcaneal apophysis is a growth center where the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia attach to the heel. It first appears in children aged 7 to 8 years. By ages 12 to 14 years the growth center matures and fuses to the heel bone. Injuries can occur from excessive tension on the Achilles tendon and the plantar fascia, or from direct impact on the heel. Excessive stress on this growth center can cause irritation of the heel, also called Sever?s disease.
Your child?s heel bone keeps forming new bone until the late teens. The new bone is weak and can be damaged by running or pounding on hard surfaces, like during a basketball game. The new bone may also be irritated by shoes with poor padding in the heels or poor arch supports.
Sever?s is recognized by pain in the back and lower regions of the heel. It usually starts during or immediately following the child’s growth spurt, and/or in very active individuals. The child will usually have pain during or following participation in sport, and will often be seen limping off the field or court. Symptoms of Sever’s include painful heel, no swelling or warmth, night pain is absent, pain is worse with increased activity, pain which is usually relieved by rest. Children often hobble or limp from the sports field.
All medical diagnosis should be made by taking a full history, examining the patient then performing investigations. The problem usually occurs in boys who are going through or have just gone through a growth spurt; one or both heels may be affected. Initially the pain may be intermittent occurring only during or after exercise. As the problem gets worse, pain may be present most of the time. There may be swelling over the back of the heel and this area is painful if touched or knocked. On examination the patient often has flat feet, very tight legs muscles especially the gastrocnemius.
Non Surgical Treatment
The initial treatment is rest, relieve the pain and treat the underlying cause. The foot and ankle should be rested so that the apophysis it is not being continually ?injured?. A small heel (sorbothane heel insert) raise can used to raise the heel and take the stretch off the Achilles tendon. It may be sufficient to stop your child playing sport but some children require a short period of bed or couch rest. Some children find resting very difficult and require the use of braces or plasters or boots to slow them down. Using crutches is advised. Severs is usually caused by tight muscles. A stretching program should be followed usually supervised by a physiotherapist. The stretching program may need to be undertaken up to 5 times a day. If flat feet are a problems orthotics (insoles) should be used. The pain should be controlled by rest (limiting activity) and ice (icing the painful area 3-4 times a day – making sure the skin is not burnt), Simple pain killers can be used such as paracetamol as well as anti-inflammatory tablets and cream. Severs disease usually goes away with time. When your child stops growing, the pain and swelling should go away because the growing (weak) area fuses and becomes solid bone which is very strong.
Can Calcaneal Apophysitis Be Prevented? The chances of a child developing heel pain can be reduced by avoiding obesity. Choosing well-constructed, supportive shoes that are appropriate for the child?s activity. Avoiding or limiting wearing of cleated athletic shoes. Avoiding activity beyond a child?s ability.