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How Sever’s Disease Affects Young Athletes

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A disease with a name similar to “severe” might sound daunting, but Sever’s disease is a fairly common disorder caused by inflammation of growth plates in the foot.

What is Sever’s Disease?

Also known as calcaneal apophysitis, heel pain occurs in Sever’s disease as physically active kids grow. Usually the onset and the most painful stages occur during puberty when the most growth is taking place.

heelSometimes, the calcaneus bone can grow more quickly than the surrounding muscles and tendons. When this happens, leg muscle tissue becomes tight, putting pressure on the growth plate. Repeated stress over time on the Achilles’ tendon pulls against the growth plate, damaging it and causing the swelling and pain characteristic of Sever’s disease.

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How it Affects Young Athletes

Young athletes participate in a wide range of activity that could cause Sever’s disease. Any sport involving running, jumping, and heel impact, such as soccer, basketball, tennis, football, gymnastics and more create ideal situation for stress.

Couple this repetitive impact with poor arch quality, present in most children, can add to the likelihood of Sever’s disease. In this day and age, ill-fitting shoes ruin our bodies natural ability to absorb impact through the arch of the foot. Pronated feet, flat feet, or high arches affect the angle between the heel and Achilles’ tendon. Therefore, most young athletes are at risk for developing Sever’s disease if they regularly participate in sport. 

How Compression can Play an Integral Part in Treatment       

RICEIt’s commonly known that compression is a main part of treating inflammation. Combined with rest, ice, and elevation, compression can help alleviate the stress response associated with microtraumas. Treating Sever’s disease is no different.

Doctors will often recommend a decrease in all activities that result in pain, especially running. Check with your child’s doctor for specific recommendations. While recovery is taking place, compression helps decrease the swelling and thus reduce pain.

BH_sever_diseaseDuring rehabilitation, a series of exercises and stretches might be prescribed to facilitate return to activity. If athletes can return balance between muscle, tendon, and bone, they might be able to return to running as long as pain subsides. Some common exercises include lower and upper calf stretches, calf raises, and band-resisted ankle movements. Because rehab starts slowly adding low-impact activity around the painful areas, compression and ice can be crucial to recovery.

Fortunately, Sever’s disease can generally heal up quickly with proper treatment. Work with your doctor to find shoes that support proper arch health and get specific rehabilitation exercises for your child. As pain-free activity resumes and your child ages, Sever’s disease will disappear after growth is complete.

Kimber Rozier, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Kimber Rozier, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Kimber Rozier is a decorated rugby player for the USA and strength coach who loves sharing her knowledge through writing. As an author, her contribution to Stack, EliteFTS, Men’s Health, and more showcase her expertise across multiple fields. As the assistant coach of women’s rugby at multiple Division I universities, an NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist, Precision Nutrition nutritionist, and personal trainer, she continues to advocate performance, fitness, weight loss, and an healthy lifestyle.

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