Osgood-Schlatter (OS)…sounds ominous, but it’s actually the most common cause of knee pain in children. It occurs most often in children participating in sports that involve running, jumping or quick direction changes; think soccer, basketball, even figure skating and ballet. My daughter, who is 13 years old and has been a figure skater for years, recently started complaining of knee pain when on the ice or off-ice training. I decided to do some research and since my husband always talked about having OS as a teen when he played soccer, I started here. Here are the most frequently asked questions regarding Osgood-Schlatter:
- What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter?
OS is characterized by activity-related knee pain (usually a few inches below the kneecap, and most times just one knee), on the front of the knee. The athlete can have swelling in the area, and it may be tender to the touch. Pain is worse with running, jumping, kneeling, and squatting. A permanent “lump” in the are might develop.
- What Causes Osgood-Schlatter?
The main reason for developing OS is that while running, jumping and bending, the athlete’s thigh muscles (quadriceps) pull on the tendon that connect the kneecap to the shinbone. This repeated stress can cause the tendon to pull away for the bone, ever so slightly, resulting in the pain and swelling characteristic of Osgood-Schlatter. Because it tends to occur mostly during periods of rapid growth, the adolescent’s body may try to close the gap with the new bone growth, and this may result in a permanent bony lump.
- What are the risk factors associated with Osgood-Schlatter?
Age- OS occurs mostly during puberty’s growth spurts. In boys, it typically occurs between 13-14 years old and in girls around 11-12 years of age.
Sex- While still more common in boys, the gap is narrowing as more girls participate in competitive sports.
Sports-as mentioned before, the condition is mostly associated with sports that involve a lot of running, jumping or swift changes in direction.
- What tests can be done to diagnose Osgood-Schlatter?
OS is mostly diagnosed by physical exam. Your child’s doctor will check the knees for tenderness, swelling, pain and/or redness. X-rays may be ordered but not absolutely necessary to make the diagnosis.
- What is the treatment for Osgood-Schlatter, and what medications can be used to help with the symptoms?
The symptoms of OS will improve on t heir own without any formal treatment, with symptoms usually disappearing after puberty and after the young athlete’s bones stop growing. Over the Counter pain medications such as Tylenol or Advil/Motrin may be helpful. Another important aspect is stretching of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, so physical therapy or daily stretching exercises may help symptoms and may also help prevent further injuries.
1) Rest the Joint. Limit the amount of time spent doing whatever makes the knee hurt more, like running or jumping (way easier said than done!)
2) Ice the affected joint. Especially after exercise.
3) Stretch the leg muscles. VERY important!
4) Protect the Knee. Consider wearing a pad over the affected knee while participating in sports.
5) Cross train. Encourage your child/athlete to temporarily switch to activities that don’t involve jumping or running, such as cycling or swimming, until symptoms improve. (Haha to this one too, neither one of my kids would go for it!)
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and good luck to all teen athletes out there! This too shall pass!