Sever disease, first described in 1912, is a painful inflammation of the calcaneal apophysis. It is classified with the child and adolescent nonarticular osteochondroses. (The other disease in this group is Iselin disease, which is inflammation of the base of the fifth metatarsal.) The etiology of pain in Sever disease is believed to be repetitive trauma to the weaker structure of the apophysis, induced by the pull of the tendo calcaneus (Achilles tendon) on its insertion. This results in a clinical picture of heel pain in a growing active child, which worsens with activity. Sever disease is a self-limited condition; accordingly, no known complication exists from failure to make the correct diagnosis.
At birth, most of our foot bones are still made of cartilage, which ossifies (becomes bony) over the first few years of life. At the back of the heel, there is a growth plate that is attached to the main body of the heel bone by a cartilaginous join. At about the age of 14-15 years, this area of cartilage between the growth plate and the heel bone ossifies, fusing the area to the heel. Sever?s disease occurs when there is too much motion or strain across the growth plate, resulting in this area becoming inflamed and painful.
Unilateral or bilateral heel pain. Heel pain during physical exercise, especially activities that require running or jumping or are high impact. Pain is often worse after exercise. A tender swelling or bulge on the heel that is painful on touch. Limping. Calf muscle stiffness first thing in the morning.
Sever?s disease can be diagnosed based on your history and symptoms. Clinically, your physiotherapist will perform a “squeeze test” and some other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some children suffer Sever?s disease even though they do less exercise than other. This indicates that it is not just training volume that is at play. Foot and leg biomechanics are a predisposing factor. The main factors thought to predispose a child to Sever?s disease include decrease ankle dorsiflexion, abnormal hind foot motion eg overpronation or supination, tight calf muscles, excessive weight-bearing activities eg running.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of Severs disease usually involves a combination of an accurate analysis of your child?s gait, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints is a crucial first step. Specific stretching and strengthening exercises often make up part of the treatment. Anti-inflammatory measures such as ice baths after exercise can be helpful in the short term. Footwear review, assessment and advice is important. Orthotic devices are often needed to firstly control any abnormal traction or tension on the heel growth plate and, secondly, too unload the ground reaction forces on the heel bone. Podiatry Care has podiatrists with specific paediatric training enabling them to utilise treatment options to relieve heel pain in children very quickly. If your child is struggling to play sport, see a Podiatry Care podiatrist near you. In severe cases modification to activity levels may be required. Treatment of Severs disease does NOT require surgery. This foot condition responds very well to conservative treatment.