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Osgood-Schlatter Disease

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a problem with the patellar tendon, which is the tendon that attaches the kneecap to the shinbone. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that connect muscle to bones. Osgood-Schlatter disease causes pain and swelling just below the knee and over the bump at the top of the shinbone, where the growth plate of the shinbone is located.

Tendons can be injured suddenly or they may be slowly damaged over time. Your child can have tiny or partial tears in the tendon.

What is the cause?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is caused by overuse of the patellar tendon. Overuse can cause irritation of the growth plate or of the area where the tendon attaches to the bone. It can lead to extra bone formation (sometimes the extra bone is in pieces).

Overuse can happen during normal childhood and sport activities. It may happen when the muscles are too tight in the front of the thigh, the back of the thigh, or in the calf. Osgood-Schlatter disease is seen most often in boys between the ages of 10 and 15. It usually appears when your child goes through a growth spurt.

What are the symptoms?

Your child will complain of a painful, hard bump below the kneecap. The pain may come and go or the bump may stay painful and some activities, like kneeling, may be hard to do.

How is it diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about his symptoms, activities, and medical history. Your child may have X-rays or other scans.

How is it treated?

Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease usually go away when the child stops growing. This is about 6 to 24 months after your child starts having symptoms. Your child may need to rest or do activities that don’t cause knee pain. Your child will always have a bump even after the pain has gone away.

Your child's healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help the knee heal. A special padded brace may help. Ask your child’s provider about this.

Sometimes the pain from Osgood-Schlatter disease lasts into adulthood. Adults with pain from pieces of bone in the knee may need surgery to remove the pieces of bone.

How can I take care of my child?

To help the swelling and pain, your child may:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep his knee up on a pillow when he sits or lies down.
  • Take pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.

Your child should do the exercises recommended by your healthcare provider.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • How long it will take your child to recover
  • What activities your child should avoid, including how much he can lift, and when he can return to his normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Doctors don’t know how to prevent Osgood-Schlatter disease. The best way to prevent pain is to build muscle strength with exercise. Proper warm-up and stretching exercises of the thigh, hamstring, and calf muscles may also help.

Your child should avoid overtraining by limiting activity as soon as he notices the painful bump on the top of the shinbone.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-11-20
Last reviewed: 2012-08-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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