Osgood-Schlatter Disease in Children

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Osgood-Schlatter disease is an overuse condition or injury of the knee that causes pain and swelling below the knee area over the shin bone.

It is characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon and surrounding soft tissues. It is caused by the constant pulling of the patellar tendon on the area below the knee where the tendon attaches.

Osgood-Schlatter disease is seen in the growing child and adolescent, particularly those who participate in athletics. This is an age where the bones are typically growing faster than the muscles and tendons. As a result, the muscles and tendons have a tendency to become tight. It is most common in young athletes who play games or sports that involve running and jumping.

Osgood-Schlatter disease is most often seen in preteen and teenage boys from 10 to 15 years old. It is common in young athletes who play games or sports that involve running, jumping, or going up and down stairs. Adolescent athletes who are affected are most often involved in football, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, or ballet.

Factors which increase the likelihood of Osgood-Schlatter disease may include the following:

  • tight quadriceps (front thigh) muscles
  • tight hamstrings (back thigh) muscles

Osgood Schlatter

What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease. However, each adolescent may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • tenderness below the knee
  • swelling around the knee
  • limping (may worsen following activities)

The symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems of the knee. Always consult your adolescent's physician for a diagnosis.

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Osgood-Schlatter disease may include:

  • X-rays - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • bone scans - a nuclear imaging method to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • blood tests

Treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease:

Specific treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease will be determined by your adolescent's physician based on:

  • your adolescent's age, overall health, and medical history
  • the extent of the condition
  • your adolescent's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to control the knee pain and limit your teen's activities that could aggravate the condition. Treatment may include:

  • R.I.C.E. - rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  • medications (for discomfort)
  • elastic wrap or a neoprene knee sleeve around the knee
  • activity restrictions
  • physical therapy (to help stretch and strengthen the thigh and leg muscles)

Long-term outlook for an adolescent with Osgood-Schlatter disease:

Osgood-Schlatter disease often resolves with time. Rarely is surgery required for this condition.

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