Osgood-Schlatter disease is a painful knee condition that usually affects adolescent boys around age 13 to 14. Osgood-Schlatter disease can also occur in girls, but it is more common in boys. Since girls physically mature at an earlier age, Osgood-Schlatter disease typically occurs in girls who are 11 or 12 years old. Osgood-Schlatter disease is common in young athletes who play fast-paced sports like basketball, soccer, running or gymnastics.
Osgood-Schlatter disease takes the form of a swelling underneath the kneecap. It is caused by inflammation of the patellar tendon, which attaches the kneecap (patella) to a bony prominence on the tibia (shin bone) called the anterior tibial tubercle. This inflammation makes the knee joint swollen and tender right below the kneecap. The inflammation involved in Osgood-Schlatter disease is considered an overuse injury that develops over time rather than an acute sports injury. Osgood-Schlatter disease develops in young, athletic adolescents who are going through growth spurts.
Osgood-Schlatter disease may affect one or both knees, and the pain from the injury may be felt in the knee joint and radiate down the shin. The pain generally gets better with rest and worse with physical activity such as running or jumping. The swelling of the knee joint may be mild or severe enough to limit the range of motion of the knee joint. Some children with Osgood-Schlatter symptoms will experience too much pain to continue playing sports with the injury, and others may not be bothered so much by their symptoms. However, the injury does heal faster if activity that is hard on the knees is minimized.
Nearly all cases of Osgood-Schlatter disease improve on their own over a period of weeks or months. Once a child’s bones stop growing, they may never have to deal with symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease again. Medical intervention is not usually necessary, but a doctor may recommend taking a break from physical activity until the injury heals, icing the knee to reduce pain and swelling and taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control symptoms. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend that a knee brace is used to temporarily immobilize the knee until it can heal, and crutches may be used to take weight off of the injured knee. Seeing a physical therapist may also be recommended in some cases.