Does Your Child Have Heel Pain? It Could Be Sever’s Disease

If your teenage athlete has heel pain, your Houston podiatrist could diagnose Sever's diseaseFor all of us as parents, keeping our children healthy and happy is of utmost importance. If your pediatrician has mentioned that your child’s foot discomfort could be caused by Sever’s disease, the scary-sounding name probably left you feeling pretty scared. But don’t worry. As your Houston podiatrist, I am here to tell you more about this common condition, and to reassure you that it’s temporary and treatable.

Sever's disease is a painful bone disorder that develops when the growth plate in your child’s heel becomes inflamed. A growth plate is a spot at the end of a developing bone where cartilage eventually becomes bone. During that process, growth plates get bigger and join together; this is how kids’ bones actually grow and develop.

Sever's disease usually develops during a growth spurt, right when your young teens are beginning puberty and growing out of shoes and clothes every few months (usually between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys). You will hardly ever see an older teen with Sever's disease, because heel-bone growth is usually complete by age 15; in other words, if you have a 16 year old with heel pain, it may be a more serious condition like plantar fasciitis that also requires treatment from a podiatrist.

But back to Sever's disease. During your child’s puberty growth spurt, the heel bone sometimes grows faster than the leg muscles and tendons, making those muscles tight and overstretched, allowing less flexibility in the heel and putting additional pressure on the growth plate. If this condition is in place, and repeated stress is placed on those tight tendons, they can damage the growth plate and cause the swelling, tenderness and pain of Sever's disease.

Stress on tendons can come from a lot of different areas, but is usually the result of sports that involve running and jumping like track, basketball, soccer, and gymnastics. For this reason, young athletes are more at risk of developing Sever’s than other teens.

So that’s the bad news, but here’s the good news: if you come see me at Tanglewood Foot Specialists when symptoms first appear, the condition will usually resolve quickly, somewhere between two weeks and two months of onset. With appropriate care, Sever’s won’t cause any problems for your kids later in life. And, as with most foot problems, the sooner Sever's disease is treated by a podiatrist, the quicker the recovery will be, so bring your child in to see Dr. Andrew Schneider quickly if you suspect he or she has developed Sever’s disease. 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.