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Sharp Health News

Sever’s disease: A ‘severe’ name for a common injury

May 13, 2016

Sever’s disease: A ‘severe’ name for a common injury

Children all over the U.S. learn to play sports from an early age. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, more than 21 million kids between the ages of 6 and 17 participate in team sports.

There are many benefits to youth sports, from increased fitness and self-esteem to improved cognitive skills and social life. However, there are also some downsides, including injuries like Sever's disease.

Sever's disease (pronounced SEH-vers) — most common in girls ages 8 to 10 and boys ages 10 to 12 — is caused when the growth plate in the heel is injured. The bones in the foot often grow faster than the muscles and tendons, causing tightness. When a young athlete does an activity that requires running and jumping — like in gymnastics, soccer or basketball — too much pressure is put on the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches, causing pain and swelling.

According to Dr. Jamie Saben, a board-certified family medicine doctor who also specializes in sports medicine with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, Sever's disease is often the culprit of heel pain when your child shows the following three signs:

  • Limps or tiptoes to avoid heel pain
  • Feels pain when they are running or jumping
  • Experiences increased pain when both sides at the back of the heel are squeezed

He offers the following three treatment tips for Sever's disease:

  • Stop any activity that causes the heel pain.
  • Ice the heel for no more than 20 minutes at a time, a few times each day.
  • Stretch muscles and tendons at the back of each leg for 20 seconds per stretch, two or three times each day.

Talk to your doctor about your child's heel pain. Some may recommend using orthotics or gel heel pads in their shoes. If the pain is severe, your doctor may also suggest medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for relief.

"Sever's usually resolves with conservative care of rest, ice and a consistent stretching regimen," says Dr. Saben. "Athletes can return to their sports after the symptoms calm down enough for normal running without pain or limping."

To prevent further flare-ups of Sever's disease, have your child continue daily stretching and treat the area with ice after play. Providing your child with supportive shoes with good arch support and heel lift, and encouraging them to avoid running on hard surfaces, can also help.

For the media: To talk with Dr. Saben about Sever's disease, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com or 858-499-3052.

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