What is Osgood Schlatters Disease?

Bethney Foster

Osgood Schlatters disease is an injury caused by overuse that affects the knee in children. It occurs during adolescent growth spurts and most often affects children who are involved in sports. It is estimated that one in five children who participate in sports will experience Osgood Schlatters disease, and it is the most common cause of knee pain in adolescents. The stress of running, jumping, and other activity causes the tendon from the knee bone to the shin bone to pull, resulting in the condition.

Ballet puts dancers at risk of Osgood Schlatters disease.
Ballet puts dancers at risk of Osgood Schlatters disease.

Sports that require the participant to suddenly change her direction, such as soccer, basketball, or ballet dancing, are those most likely to cause the condition. Other sports that commonly result in the condition are football, volleyball, and figure skating. Many children diagnosed with Osgood Schlatters disease have some history of trauma to the knee area within the last couple years.

Figure skaters are at a higher risk of Osgood Schlatters disease.
Figure skaters are at a higher risk of Osgood Schlatters disease.

More boys develop Osgood Schlatters disease than girls. This is only because boys are more likely to be involved in sports. Female athletes are just as likely as male athletes to develop the condition. Osgood Schlatters disease usually affects boys at about 13 years old and girls about 11 years old.

In addition to a lump just below the kneecap, symptoms include pain below the kneecap, with the pain being worse when the child is active. Pain may be mild to severe, but is most often in only one knee. It may go away but recur from time to time. There may be swelling below the kneecap and above the shin. The child may also limp after activity.

In most instances, the condition resolves itself once bone growth has stopped, usually within one to two years of the onset of symptoms. Treatment during adolescence usually includes the application of ice and over-the-counter medications for pain and swelling. In some cases, physical therapy may also be recommended. It’s often recommended that children not participate in sports while the pain is active and that they take a break from sports when there is a recurrence of the pain. If the condition is severe, the child’s physician may recommend using a knee immobilizer for a period of time.

Osgood Schlatters disease cannot always be prevented, but certain steps may help. Children should be encouraged to stretch before activity. Knee pads may also help to protect the knees from damage, and a knee brace may be helpful during activity. Applying heat before activity and ice afterward may also help to reduce swelling.

More boys develop Osgood Schlatters disease than girls.
More boys develop Osgood Schlatters disease than girls.

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