What Causes Calcaneal Apophysitis?

Overview

The condition is more common in young people active in sport, and boys are more frequently affected than girls. One study found the average age of presentation was around 12 years for boys and 9 years for girls. In one prospective study of injuries among players aged 9-19 years in football academies, 2% of overall football injuries were due to Sever's disease; the peak for incidence was in the under-11 age group. In a study of 85 children, the condition was bilateral in 61%.

Causes

There are several factors which may increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These need to be assessed and corrected with direction from a physiotherapist to ensure an optimal outcome. Some of these factors include inappropriate footwear, calf tightness and/or weakness, joint stiffness (particularly the foot and ankle), poor lower limb biomechanics, inappropriate or excessive training, inadequate recovery periods from training or activity, inappropriate training surfaces, inadequate warm up, poor core stability, a lack of lower limb strength and stability, poor proprioception or balance, rapid growth and age.

Symptoms

The most prominent symptom of Sever's disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localized to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) is absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever's disease is primarily clinical.

Diagnosis

Sever condition is diagnosed by detecting the characteristic symptoms and signs above in the older children, particularly boys between 8 and 15 years of age. Sometimes X-ray testing can be helpful as it can occasionally demonstrate irregularity of the calcaneus bone at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches.

Non Surgical Treatment

A doctor, sports therapist or physiotherapist can apply a plaster cast or boot if the child is in severe pain. This may be worn for a few days or even weeks and should give relief of pain for a while. Carry out a full biomechanical assessment. This may help to determine if any foot biomechanics issues are contributing to the condition. Orthotics or insoles can be prescribed to help correct over pronation or other biomechanics issues. Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. This will not be prescribed if asthma the child has asthma. In persistent cases X-rays may be taken but this is not usual. A doctor, sports therapist or physiotherapist will NOT give a steroid injection or operate as these are not suitable treatment options. The condition will usually settle within 6 months, although it can persist for longer.

Recovery

Severs disease is a self limiting condition that gradually resolves as the patient moves towards skeletal maturity. This usually takes between 6 to 12 months, but may persist for as long as 2 years. With appropriate management, symptoms may resolve in a number of weeks. Patients with Severs disease typically improve gradually over time and full function is restored.

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