What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Quick Answer
Pain caused by the patellar (kneecap) tendon pulling away from the tibia (shin bone).
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Causes and Symptoms

Osgood-Schlatter disease is most frequently found in young athletes during their years of rapid growth. It is more common in boys, who are typically affected between the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Girls usually are affected at younger ages, ten to eleven. However, children are at risk between the ages of ten and eighteen, especially during their rapid skeletal growth years. Children who play sports that involve running or repetitive jumping have the highest risk.

The most common symptom of Osgood-Schlatter disease is pain below the kneecap. There is usually a swollen, bony bump in that area. Pain is often felt when the bump is touched or when the knee is bent or fully extended in activities such as running, jumping, kneeling, squatting, or lifting weights. As the child matures, Osgood-Schlatter disease will usually go away. When children stop growing, the patellar tendon is stronger and the pain and swelling disappear. Very seldom does the disease continue after rapid growth stops.

If the pain persists, then the child should see a pediatrician or orthopedist. The physician will examine the knee area and the location of pain in order to make a diagnosis. If the source of the pain is unclear, then an x-ray will be taken of the knee to verify Osgood-Schlatter disease.

Treatment and Therapy

The best treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease is simply rest. Depending on the severity of the condition, the child may have to decrease activity levels or stop playing sports for several months. Deep knee bending and jumping should be minimized, and running may need to be limited. To treat the pain, the knee should get more rest, and ice should be applied for twenty minutes three times per day. Elastic bandages should be used to compress the knee area, and the leg should be elevated when possible. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be taken. In extreme cases, a brace or cast may be used.

After recovery from the pain, the child can slowly return to previous activity levels. Additionally, a physical therapist can prescribe exercises that will help strengthen the leg muscles around the knee to minimize the chances of a recurrence.

There is no surgical procedure for Osgood-Schlatter disease unless the patellar tendon is fully torn from the tibia. This should not happen if the patient gets proper rest, in which case Osgood-Schlatter disease will resolve itself.

Bibliography

Dunn, J. F., Jr. “Osgood-Schlatter Disease.” American Family Physician 41, no. 4 (1990): 173.

Globus, S. “Osgood-Schlatter: More than Growing Pains.” Current Health 2 28, no. 4 (2002): 20.

Kaneshiro, Neil K. "Osgood-Schlatter Disease." MedlinePlus, November 12, 2012.

Lackey, E., and R. Sutton. “Rest Is Best for Common Knee Swelling.” GP: General Practitioner 1c (2003): 75.

Parker, James N., and Philip M. Parker, eds. The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Osgood-Schlatter Disease. San Diego, Calif.: Icon Health, 2002.

Woodward, A. H. “Osgood-Schlatter Disease.” Pediatrics for Parents 11, no. 1 (1990): 11.

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