Knee Pain (Osgood-Schlatter Disease)

As spring and summer arrive, so do sports injuries and questions about aches and pains. A common pain patients and parents ask about during office visits is knee pain. So in today’s Doctor’s Note, I wanted to discuss a common cause of teenage knee pain called Osgood-Schlatter Disease.

WHAT IS OSGOOD-SCHLATTER DISEASE?

While the name sounds like a terrible terminal illness this is actually a rather common condition. This injury is the result of repetitive use and is typically considered to be an overuse injury. The repetitive stress causes a pulling or traction injury at the growth plate of the tibia (shin bone).

WHO GETS OSGOOD-SCHLATTER DISEASE?

This condition commonly affects teenagers between the ages of 10-15, and it affects boys more than girls. Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter tend to worsen during growth spurts, as bones grow faster than muscles are able to compensate. The presence of Osgood-Schlatter increases in physically active children as pain will typically increase during running and jumping activities when higher stress is placed on the knee.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE OSGOOD-SCHLATTER DISEASE?

The pain is located over the tibial-tuberecle (an area just below the knee cap) and often affects both sides. Up to ½ of boys and ¼ of girls with Osgood-Schlatter report pain affecting both knees. Swelling and redness may also be present around the pain area, but the actual knee joint should not be painful or swollen.

DO I NEED AN X-RAY?

Typically no, as the diagnosis is generally made based on a good physical exam. An x-ray may be ordered if the physical exam is concerning or the history suggests another source of the knee pain.

SO HOW DO I GET BETTER?

Great question! Treatment is primarily supportive, with rest, pain management and activity modification. Rest is important with any injury, but especially with an overuse injury. Activity modifications include the addition of low-impact activities like bike riding, swimming, and walking. Pain generally improves as the growth plate closes and some children might experience a mild discomfort with activity until this occurs. As the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease tend to increases as flexibility is lost, proper stretching and strengthening activities should be preformed as well.

Here’s a handout of exercises that will aid in stretching and strengthening the affected muscles associated with Osgood Schlatter disease:

WHEN SHOULD I BE CONCERNED?

  • Some pain is likely with Osgood-Schlatter, but a worsening or persisting pain should not be ignored.
  • Any knee pain associated with a known injury should be evaluated.
  • A knee injury resulting in knee joint pain, swelling, or bruising should be evaluated.
  • Inability to walk without a limp or bear weight after an injury.
  • If you have questions or concerns at any time in regards to any injury or pain and its severity, please call the office to discuss with one of our team members.

Travis Lewis, a Kids Plus care provider, is a certified Athletic Trainer and a certified Physician Assistant.