Growing Pains: Henry Co. ‘tween faces painful condition

12 year-old Devyn Davis is at the top of her game after recovering from a growth spurt that resulted in Sever’s disease, a painful heel condition that sidelined her for about a month.

Three-sport athlete, Devyn Davis, 12, Kewanee, IL, is a moving target: Soccer, competitive tumbling, and basketball keep her on her toes every day of the year. And while her parents are proud of her accomplishments, growing too much too fast has its downside.

Dr Mark Stewart, ORA Orthopedics
Dr Mark Stewart, ORA Orthopedics

“I grew 6 inches in 4 months and my heel just couldn’t keep up,” Devyn explains.

“We mark her growth on a door jam, and we were just shocked at how fast she had grown in such a short time!” says her father, Dustin Davis. “We didn’t know how concerned we needed to be. Devyn kept complaining about heel pain, but we thought with all of her activities, it was just the garden variety of growing pains.”

Dustin says for almost a year they tried everything to relieve her pain: foot braces, taping, new shoes and heel cushions, but nothing worked.

However, when Devyn came limping and crying off the field at a soccer tournament, it was time to see an orthopedic doctor.

Dustin’s biggest fear was a potential fracture, but he says they weren’t prepared for the diagnosis: a condition he had never heard about called Sever’s disease.

Devyn and her parents met with ORA Orthopedics’ Surgeon, Dr. Mark Stewart, at ORA’s clinic in Hammond-Henry Hospital, Geneseo.

Dr. Stewart says that while reviewing X-rays of Devyn’s foot, he noticed an inflammation in her heel. Upon closer inspection, he diagnosed Devyn with Sever’s disease, which he says is found only in growing athletes and usually during early puberty.

“Sever’s disease occurs when the growth plate in the lower heel where the Achilles tendon attaches becomes inflamed and irritated. It’s usually a result of overuse or extreme use of the foot and ankle,” Dr. Stewart explains.

He says rest is the best treatment, which can be a challenge for competitive athletes like Devyn. “She is a dedicated athlete. She tried to get through it and she didn’t want to let her team down.”

To ensure a full recovery, Dr. Stewart put Devyn’s foot in a cast, immobilizing her painful heel for about a month. This made all the difference.

“She is pain free and back to her normal activities,” says her father. “We were so relieved the condition was treatable. Dr. Stewart’s care was great. He worked with us and understood her competitive drive.”

Dr. Stewart says Sever’s disease is relatively obscure, but it can be one of the most common causes of heel pain in growing pain. He says he treats about 5 patients per year with Sever’s disease and notes that surgery is rarely required.

As for Devyn, she’s full steam ahead and looking forward to participating in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, as well as pursuing her dreams to become a doctor someday.