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What is Osgood Schlatter Disease?

Osgood Schlatter disease is a condition in which constant pulling of the tendon that connects the thigh muscle to the shin or tibia [tih-BEE-uh]. This causes inflammation and pain in the lower knee or upper shin bone.

This condition happens most often in adolescents who are experiencing growth spurts, when the bone can grow more quickly than the attached tendon. This causes tightness that results in stress on the bone, cartilage or tendons when jumping and running.

Osgood Schlatter disease is also more common in young athletes who participate in sports that require repetitive motion, such as football, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, and ballet. Doctors think that the fast changes in direction that some of these sports require may be a contributing factor.

This condition is most commonly diagnosed among boys and girls who are experiencing puberty. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual and will resolve with rest. In rare cases, Osgood Schlatter can damage to the growth plates of the bone and require surgery.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Osgood Schlatter are like other knee problems and may be difficult to diagnose. Signs that your child is experiencing Osgood Schlatter may include:

  • Soreness below the knee
  • A painful lump on shinbone or upper tibia
  • Swelling below the knee
  • Limping

These symptoms usually occur in one knee but can develop in both knees over time. The symptoms can appear slowly, and discomfort can last for several weeks up to several months.

When to See a Doctor

If your child is experiencing symptoms of Osgood Schlatter disease, schedule an appointment with a doctor. Early detection is important to prevent the condition from worsening. In rare cases, Osgood Schlatter can affect the growth plate of the bone and may require surgery.

Causes

Osgood Schlatter disease is generally caused by overuse and is common among adolescent athletes. Doctors believe it is caused by the rapid bone growth, which places tension on the tendon that connects the thigh muscle to the knee and shin. This tension is aggravated by sports that involve running or jumping, like basketball, ballet, and others. As the constant pulling of the tendon continues, it causes inflammation and pain.

The risk factors for Osgood Schlatter disease include the following:

  • Age. Adolescents are at greater risk of this condition as they enter the ages of puberty. For boys, this is typically between 12-15. Girls experience puberty earlier and may have an earlier onset of this condition between the ages of 10-13.
  • Sex. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with Osgood Schlatter disease, but it’s unclear whether this is an actual risk factor or if it is related to boys being more likely to participate in sports.
  • Sports. While some doctors disagree about the exact cause of Osgood Schlatter’s disease, it is related to participation in sports and the repetitive motions of running and jumping.
  • Flexibility. Adolescents with greater flexibility tend to develop milder forms of this condition since flexible, strong supporting muscles and tendons allow for a greater range of motion without stress.

Diagnosis and Tests

If you or your child are showing symptoms of Osgood Schlatter disease, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history. An x-ray may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis.

If your doctor suspects another condition is the source of your knee pain or your child’s knee pain, additional testing like blood tests and CT or MRI scans may be recommended.

Treatments

Most adolescents who suffer from Osgood Schlatter’s disease can expect to make a full recovery with rest and limiting physical activity. Your doctor or your child’s doctor may recommend the following:

  • Taking a break from the usual physical activities.
  • Applying ice and using compression to reduce swelling.
  • Taking medicines like anti-inflammatories or pain relievers.
  • Wearing an elastic sleeve or wrap around the knee to improve stability.
  • Stretching and doing physical therapy to strengthen surrounding muscles and increase flexibility.

It’s important to follow the treatment plan for Osgood Schlatter’s disease to prevent the condition from worsening and affecting the growth plate of the bone. In rare cases, this condition may require surgery.

Prevention

To prevent Osgood Schlatter disease from starting or getting worse, it’s important to take the following steps:

  • Do exercises that strengthen the muscles of the thigh and leg, including stretches that increase flexibility.
  • Use ice and elevation to reduce inflammation after strenuous activity, especially if you or your child experience pain or swelling.
  • During puberty when children are most at risk of developing Osgood Schlatter disease, switch to activities that do not involve running or jumping to minimize the risk of developing the condition.

If your child is an athlete entering the stages of puberty, talk with your child’s doctor or pediatrician regarding the steps you can take to prevent Osgood Schlatter from developing.

Osgood Schlatter disease is a condition caused by overuse. It typically causes pain in the lower knee at the top of the shinbone. The pain is caused by pulling on the tendon that connects the thigh muscle to the knee and shin. This pulling causes inflammation. Osgood Schlatter disease is a common source of knee pain for growing adolescents who participate in sports that may cause stress on this tendon.