What Is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Osgood-Schlatter disease causes knee pain in one or both knees in active children and adolescents 8-15 years of age. The disease typically occurs after a child has a growth spurt, when a child grows a lot in a short amount of time, and in children who participate in sports or activities involving running or jumping, such as football, basketball, soccer, track, ballet, and gymnastics.
What Are Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
The main symptom of Osgood-Schlatter disease is knee pain. Symptoms occur gradually, and come and go. It may affect one or both knees.
- Pain, swelling, and warmth occurs on the front of the knee, right below the kneecap (tibial tuberosity).
- Pain can be severe.
- Pain usually worsens over time.
- Limping may occur after activities.
- Pain worsens with running, jumping, kneeling, stair climbing, and walking uphill.
- Pain is relieved with rest.
What Are Causes and Risk Factors of Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
The cause of Osgood-Schlatter disease is unknown but is believed to result in part from the adolescent growth spurt, when bones and cartilage grow faster than muscles and tendons, combined with overuse. This repetitive stress on the shinbone (tibia) by the tendon that connects the tibia to the kneecap (patellar tendon) leads to inflammation in the knee area.
Risk factors for Osgood-Schlatter disease include the following:
- The disease tends to affect females between 8-12 years and males between 12-15 years.
- Males are affected three times more often than females.
- Rapid skeletal growth (growth spurt)
- Participation in repetitive running and jumping sports
- Tight quadriceps
How Do Doctor Diagnose Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Osgood-Schlatter disease is usually diagnosed with a physical exam and history. X-rays may be indicated.
In general, other imaging studies are not needed but may be performed to rule out other conditions. Imaging may include:
- nuclear medicine bone scan,
- computed tomography (CT) scan, and
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
What Is the Treatment for Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease is usually conservative and may involve the following:
- Limiting activities/rest
- Ice application: 20 minutes at a time every 2-4 hours
- Anti-inflammatories such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain and inflammation
- Protective padding
- Quadriceps/hamstring strengthening
- Immobilization in a knee brace -- usually not recommended but sometimes used in noncompliant patients
- Physical therapy
- Surgery -- last resort
Knee pain from Osgood-Schlatter disease may take 6-24 months to resolve, and if there is a return to activity too soon, the condition may worsen.
What Are Complications of Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Osgood-Schlatter disease is usually self-limiting and goes away by the time a patient is 18 years old, when growth spurts have ended and the tibial tubercle apophysis ossifies.
Complications of Osgood-Schlatter disease may include the following:
- Continuation of symptoms into adulthood in about 10% of patients
- Surgical complications
- Surgical wound infection
- Growth disturbance (skeletally immature)
- Obvious bony prominence
How Do You Prevent Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
The risk of developing Osgood-Schlatter disease may be reduced in some cases by avoiding excessive repetitive sports or activities involving running or jumping, such as football, basketball, soccer, ballet, and gymnastics.
When children do participate in such activities, they should do the following:
- Warm up adequately.
- Stretch after a workout.
- Use knee pads.
- Cross-train and participate in activities that do not stress the knees, such as swimming.
- Rest when there is knee pain.
- Wear proper supportive athletic shoes.
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