Sever's Disease

Sever's disease involves a lesion to the heel that appears mostly as a result of excessively twisting the ankle. The injury is particularly prevalent in children over 10 and other younger athletes because the heel bone, muscles and tendons are still developing – the bone faster than the muscles – and the condition strikes a growing part of the bone called the calcaneal apophysis. In older people an injury of this sort generally results in a stress fracture.


Sharp pain will be present in the affected heel (or both heels), especially while running or walking. Pain can be heightened following activity. The area will be tender to the touch and usually becomes inflamed or reddened. It may also be painful to press on the heel with a finger from the back or to squeeze the sides together; the latter is particularly common. You might notice stiffness in some of the surrounding muscles, making regular movements more difficult to achieve. This and the pain can manifest physically in abnormal practices like tiptoeing or limping. In some cases a lump can be detected on the back of the heel, though it may be so small as to defy detection.


Young athletes typically sustain the injury due to repeated stress caused by running and jumping. Partaking in any high speed sports can thus partly provoke the condition, such as football, rugby, basketball, hockey or track athletics. Crucially the injury is linked to overuse, so exercising with fatigued leg muscles, without a suitable warm up, or beginning a new strenuous physical activity are all risk factors. Placing excessive weight or pressure on the heel can also cause the injury. Another factor related to Sever's disease is overpronation, a biomechanical error that makes the foot roll too far inwards.


See a doctor, who can diagnose the injury and recommend appropriate treatment options. It will be beneficial to rest the affected heel, and to regularly ice the affected area for the first few days. Anti-inflammatory pain medication can reduce pain and swelling, but first check with your doctor. As the pain diminishes a physical therapist can assist with a program of rehabilitation, incorporating stretching and strengthening exercises focused on the calf, shin and hamstring muscles. For a period after the injury has healed the doctor may advise on changes to your training routines that seek to lessen the strain on the heels. Orthotics are often recommended for your shoes in order to correct any biomechanical problems or lend extra support to the heels.


As with all overuse injuries, it is important to warm up sufficiently before you exercise and warm down afterwards. You should build up any alterations in the intensity of your training gradually, and never continue exercising with weakened or fatigued muscles. Replace any worn or tattered shoes, as in this condition they become useless for absorbing shock and protecting the feet.

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