What is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Osgood-Schlatter disease is an irritation of the patellar tendon at the tibial tuberosity. It is a common cause of knee pain in children and young teenagers, occurring due to periods of rapid growth during puberty. During these growth periods, the powerful contraction of the quadriceps muscle can cause the patellar tendon to pull away from the tibia, causing swelling, pain, and tenderness just below the kneecap. Activities that require running, jumping, and bending can contribute to, or worsen the condition.
What populations are most affected?
Osgood-Schlatter commonly affects active children and young athletes who are having a growth spurt during their pre-teen or teenage years (usually ages 10-15). While boys are typically more affected, the gender gap is narrowing as more girls become involved in sports. Osgood-Schlatter disease affects as many as 1 in 5 adolescent athletes, and one or both knees may be affected.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease include:
- Pain, swelling and tenderness at the bony prominence on the upper tibia, just below the kneecap
- Knee pain that worsens during and after exercise (especially running, jumping and climbing stairs) and improves with rest
- Knee pain that occurs when contracting the quadriceps against resistance or when contracting the muscles with the leg straight
- Tightness of the surrounding muscles, especially the quadriceps
What can the athlete do to treat Osgood-Schlatter?
Osgood-Schlatter disease usually gets better without any type of formal treatment. Following the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol generally helps ease symptoms and reduce inflammation. Symptoms typically disappear after your child’s bones stop growing. Until that happens, your doctor may recommend mild pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and physical therapy. In some cases, patellar tendon straps may help to put direct pressure on the tendon, which in turn helps reduce the strain on the tibial tuberosity. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can assist by teaching the child exercises that concentrate on stretching and strengthening the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups. Stretching the quadriceps and hamstrings may help reduce the tension on the spot where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibia, while strengthening the quadriceps can help to stabilize the knee.
The author of this article is Jessica Heider, MS, ATC from Athletico – Gold Coast.