Osgood-Schlatter disease, also known as osteochondrosis, is a common cause of knee pain in children and adolescents.
The disease is characterized by pain and swelling of the anterior tibial tubercule, the bump just below the kneecap, at the upper part of the shinbone. Symptoms typically worsen during activities such as running and climbing stairs, and the knee area is often tender when pressure is applied.
This condition, which manifests most often during the growth spurts of puberty, affects boys more often than girls.
Causes of Osgood-Schlatter
Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is generally believed to be caused by injuries to the knee area before the knee has finished growing. It is typically associated with children who participate in many sports and other physical activities.
Because adolescent bones grow quickly, repeated stresses from running, jumping and rapid directional changes — such as basketball, soccer, football and gymnastics — cause the thigh muscles, or quadriceps, to pull on the tendon that connects the shinbone to the kneecap.
When these muscles are overused during the time of a child’s growth spurt, the knee area can become irritated and inflamed. In some cases, a bony lump can form below the kneecap, as new bone grows while this area is injured.
To diagnose this condition, the doctor first will take a medical history and perform a physical exam.
During the exam, the doctor will check the affected knee to determine the extent of any tenderness, swelling or pain. X-rays may be ordered to provide a better perspective of the area where the shinbone attaches to the kneecap, and to rule out other potential causes of knee and leg pain.
The X-rays may come back normal, or they could show damage or growth to the bony bump below the kneecap.
Treatment for Osgood-Schlatter Disease
In some cases, OSD goes away on its own once your child’s bones have finished growing. However, conservative treatments can be employed in the meantime to help alleviate symptoms.
It can be helpful to rest the knee and limit the amount of time spent engaging in sporting activities that aggravate the condition. Applying ice to the affected area regularly and after periods of activity can also help reduce swelling.
The doctor may recommend acetaminophen or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to help relieve pain. Physical therapy or stretching and strengthening exercises can help reduce tension and stabilize the knee.
If symptoms are persistent, other treatment options, including a cast or brace to support the leg or crutches to keep weight off of the leg, may be considered. In some cases, surgery may be required.
If your active adolescent complains of knee problems, contact our office to schedule an appointment. It is our goal to keep your family members active and feeling their best, so don’t delay if you suspect your child may be suffering from Osgood-Schlatter disease.
This article reviewed by Christopher Belton, DO.