Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is not actually a disease but an overuse injury of the knee in growing adolescents. It is one of the most common causes of knee pain in adolescents.
Causes of Osgood-Schlatter Disease
Any one or more of the following factors can contribute to Osgood-Schlatter disease:
- OSD is most often caused by inflammation of the patellar tendon where it attaches to the tibia or shin bone, just below the kneecap. There may also be inflammation of the tibia bone or cartilage.
- Growing bones are different from mature bones. They have growth plates from which bones grow longer and separate bony areas, called apophyses, where tendons attach. Apophyses are open areas in the bone and are a “weak link” making these areas more prone to injury. As the child matures these areas fuse together and become a solid bone.
- Repetitive strain on the thigh muscles during physical activity pulls on the patellar tendon, which pulls on the attachment at the tibial tubercle apophysis. This causes inflammation and pain.
- Adolescents who participate in sports involving running, twisting, and jumping – such as basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, tennis, figure skating, or gymnastics – are at an increased risk for OSD.
OSD is most often seen in active adolescents around the beginning of a growth spurt and can occur in both boys and girls.
- knee pain that increases with exercise and decreases with rest
- Swelling and tenderness, under the knee, over the top of the shinbone
- A bony lump at the top of the shinbone
- Tightness in thighs and muscles near the knee
- Limping after exercise or activiy
Taking a break from symptom provoking activity until the pain goes away reduces stress to the area as it heals. This may take several weeks. Gradually resume
activity as pain allows
Ice can help with pain and swelling. Use up to 3-4 times per day for
10-15 minutes. Make sure to place a thin towel or cloth between the ice and skin.
Anti-inflammatory medication can address symptoms of pain and swelling. Make sure to use an anti-inflammatory medication that has been approved for use with children.
Improving quadriceps flexibility and core strengthening can help decrease symptoms. Encourage your child switch to activities that don’t involve jumping
or running, such as swimming or cycling, until symptoms improve.
A pad, brace, or ring placed below the knee can help protect the knee and limit pain associated with activity.
Physical therapists work closely with doctors for specific rehabilitation exercises to maximize healing, restore function, strength and mobility to help you return to your sport.
Surgery for this condition is rarely needed, except in cases where the bones do not completely heal once the child has stopped growing. A consultation with your provider will help decide the best course of treatment for your injury.