Osgood-Schlatter disease

Pain in the knee is a common problem, particularly among young people who are very active. One cause of knee pain is a problem called Osgood-Schlatter disease. It is most common in adolescence around the time of rapid growth, and tends to affect boys more than girls. Those who participate in activities that require a lot of running or jumping are particularly prone to this problem.

Symptoms

Osgood-Schlatter disease produces pain and swelling at the front of the tibia (shin bone), just below the knee. Usually only one knee is affected but sometimes both are involved. Pain typically occurs on running, jumping, squatting and climbing up or down stairs.

Causes

Osgood-Schlatter disease is due to the fact that the powerful muscle at the front of the thigh (the quadriceps muscle) is attached (by its tendon) to the tibia at this point just below the knee. When the quadriceps muscle contracts, straightening a bent knee, an enormous pulling force is exerted at the point where the tendon is attached.

During growth, new bone is produced from areas known as growth plates, or epiphyses. The quadriceps tendon is attached to the tibia, which is very near one of these growth areas, and the new bone being formed is affected by the pulling forces. Instead of forming dense compact bone it becomes fragmented, producing the pain and swelling of Osgood-Schlatter disease.

This is only a temporary problem. The fragments of bone eventually form into normal bone and once growth is complete there should be no recurrence.

Treatment of Osgood-Schlatter disease

The only treatment required for most cases of Osgood-Schlatter disease is to reduce the amount of painful activity. Your child can continue at a reduced level of activity as long as the pain isn't too severe. Support bandaging and ice packs will help ease severe pain.

Stretching of the thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) can be helpful.

Osgood-Schlatter disease usually resolves once your child has stopped growing. When the pain has improved, your child can gradually return to his or her usual sporting activities.

Last Reviewed: 28 February 2013
Your Doctor. Dr Michael Jones, Medical Editor.

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References

1. MayoClinic.com. Osgood-Schlatter disease (19 March 2013).http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osgood-schlatter-disease/DS00392 (accessed Mar 2013).
2. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Osgood-Schlatter disease (knee pain) (reviewed August 2007). http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00411 (accessed Mar 2013).
Dr Michael Jones

Dr Michael Jones

Medical Editor, Your Doctor.