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.
The usual cause is directly related to overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel. This can come from playing sports or anything that involves a lot of heel movement. It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season, or too much weight bearing on the heel. Also, excessive traction could cause this, since the bones and tendons are still developing. Many children who over pronate their feet exhibit symptoms and in most patients, it usually involves both heels.
This syndrome can occur unilaterally or bilaterally. The incidence of bilaterally is approximately 60%. Common signs and symptoms include posterior inferior heel pain (over the medial and lateral surface of the bone). Pain is usually absent when the child gets up in the morning. Increased pain with weight bearing, running or jumping (= activity-related pain). The area often feels stiff. The child may limp at the end of physical activity. Tenderness at the insertion of the tendons (= an avascular necrosis of the arthropathy). Limited ankle dorsiflexion range secondary to tightness of the Achilles tendon. Hard surfaces and poor-quality or worn-out athletic shoes contribute to increased symptoms. The pain gradually resolves with rest. Reliability or validity of methods used to obtain the ankle joint dorsiflexion or biomechanical malalignment data are not commented upon, thus reducing the quality of the data. Although pain and limping are mentioned as symptomatic traits, there have been no attempts to quantify the pain or its effect on the individual.
A physical exam of the heel will show tenderness over the back of the heel but not in the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. There may be tightness in the calf muscle, which contributes to tension on the heel. The tendons in the heel get stretched more in patients with flat feet. There is greater impact force on the heels of athletes with a high-arched, rigid foot.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment is primarily directed towards reducing the amount of stress to the heel. Often a heel lift, is placed in the shoe to reduce the pull of the Achilles tendon on the apophysis. Gel or cushioned heel cups may also be helpful in reducing micro trauma to the heel. Orthotic control may also be indicated when a pathologic condition exists in the foot that may be contributing to the increased heel stress. Occasionally, it becomes necessary for adequate healing, to rest the area completely. This can be accomplished either by complete elimination of all strenuous activities, or by using a walking cast or crutches. Often simply reducing activity levels is adequate. Your physician will discuss the best treatment plan with you and your child.