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What Causes Severs Disease?


If you?re a young basketballer/netballer/footballer and have heel pain when playing basketball or sports involving running or jumping, you may have a particular growth pain disorder called Sever?s Disease. It is a condition (not a disease) usually affecting 9-15 year olds that occurs at the back of the heel, where the Achilles tendon attaches to the foot. The Achilles tendon is the tendon connected to the calf muscles. Pulling of the calf muscles results in tension in the Achilles and in adolescents, repeated running/jumping can result in pain and inflammation at the heel, this is called Sever?s Disease.


The foot is one of the first body parts to grow to full size. During the time of growth, bones grow faster than muscles and tendons. This results in the muscles and tendons becoming tight. The strongest tendon that attaches to the heel is the Achilles Tendon. It attaches to the back of the heel at the site of the growth plate, and during sports activities it pulls with great force on the growth plate. If this pull by the tight Achilles Tendon (calf muscle) continues for long periods of time, the growth plate may become inflamed and painful. If exertive activities continue, Sever's Disease may result.


Sever's Disease is most commonly seen in physically active girls and boys from ages 10 to 15 years old. These are the years when the growth plate is still ""open,"" and has not fused into mature bone. Also, these are the years when the growth plate is most vulnerable to overuse injuries, which are usually caused by sports activities. The most common symptoms of this disease include. Heel pain in one or both heels. Usually seen in physically active children, especially at the beginning of a new sports season. The pain is usually experienced at the back of the heel, and includes the following areas. The back of the heel (that area which rubs against the back of the shoe). The sides of the heel. Actually, this is one of the diagnostic tests for Sever's Disease, squeezing the rear portion of the heel from both sides at the same time will produce pain. It is known as the Squeeze Test.


It is not difficult for a doctor to diagnose Sever's disease in a youngster or teenager. A personal history and a physical examination are usually all it takes to determine the cause of heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment revolves around decreasing activity. Usual treatment has been putting children in a boot in slight equinus, or a cast with the foot in slight equinus, thereby decreasing the tension on the heel cord, which in turn pulls on the growth plate at the heel. As the pain resolves, children are allowed to go back to full activities. Complete resolution may be delayed until growth of the foot is complete (when the growth plate fuses to the rest of the bone of the heel). A soft cushioning heel raise is really important (this reduces the pull from the calf muscles on the growth plate and increases the shock absorption, so the growth plate is not knocked around as much). The use of an ice pack after activity for 20mins is often useful for calcaneal apophysitis, this should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day. As a pronated foot is common in children with this problem, a discussion regarding the use of long term foot orthotics may be important. If the symptoms are bad enough and are not responding to these measures, medication to help with inflammation may be needed. In some cases the lower limb may need to be put in a cast for 2-6 weeks to give it a good chance to heal.


It may take several weeks or months for the pain to completely stop. In most cases severs disease goes away on its own with a little rest and time. However if you ignore the pain and play through it, the condition may get worse and may be more difficult to treat. When the pain is completely gone, you can slowly return to your previous level of activity. With future growth spurts the pain may return therefore keep up with the stretches and follow the advice given.