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Osgood-Schlatter Disease and Knee Pain

Pediatric Basics

By

Updated May 20, 2014

Father placing bandage on son's (3-4) knee
Jose Luis Pelaez/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Knee injuries are common in kids who play sports, including ligament injuries and sprains. And these types of injuries, especially if a child can't walk or the knee is unstable, can be serious.

This is often why parents bring their children to their Pediatrician when they have knee pain. Osgood-Schlatter disease is also a common cause of knee pain, but unlike sprains and other injuries, it is usually not very serious and has no long term effects.

Symptoms

Children with Osgood-Schlatter disease have a tender, swollen bump just under their knee cap on the tibial tuberosity. Although usually just on one knee, both knees can also be affected.

Unlike other problems that cause knee pain, children with Osgood-Schlatter disease usually just have pain during certain activities, such as running, kneeling, jumping, squatting, and climbing stairs. Prolonged sitting sometimes also causes pain, although affected children can usually walk normally without pain or a limp.

Diagnosis

Although xrays can be done, Osgood-Schlatter disease is usually diagnosed based on the history of a young teen having a painful bump over their tibial tuberosity, with pain worse with activities. Other more serious conditions that might also cause a painful lump in this area, like a tumor, infection or fracture, would likely also cause pain when your child was at rest or simply walking.

Treatments

The main treatments are symptomatic, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, rest, and putting ice on the area after playing sports.

Although rest can be important, especially avoiding those activities that make the pain worse, the degree to which your child stays out of activities depends on how bad the pain is. If he is able to jog, run and play sports without limping and without a lot of pain, then he may be able to continue his usual activities. If he has severe pain or is limping during his activities, then a few months of rest might be necessary. At the very least, your child should avoid those activities that cause a lot of pain, especially those that involve a lot of jumping, squatting or kneeling.

A knee brace might also be helpful. For kids with Osgood-Schlatter disease, the best choice is usually a knee sleeve with a strap placed inferior (below) the knee cap. A contoured knee pad that provides protection to the painful area might also help.

Occasionally, for severe cases, a knee immobilizer is needed.

Surgery is rarely needed.

What You Need To Know

  • Osgood-Schlatter disease usually begins during a period of active growth (growth spurt) in children between the ages of 10 and 15 years who are active in sports.

  • Although once thought to affect mainly boys, as more girls participate in sports, Osgood-Schlatter disease is being increasingly seen in girls too. Girls do usually seem to be younger when their symptoms start, at 10-11 years, versus 13-14 years for boys. This is likely because girls usually go through their growth spurt before boys.

  • Osgood-Schlatter disease is thought to be caused by chronic microtrauma and it is considered an overuse disorder.

  • Symptoms usually last about 12-18 months, with a nontender bump lingering in many children.

  • Quadriceps and hamstring flexibility exercises might help prevent Osgood-Schlatter disease from developing.

  • Proper early diagnosis can help prevent unnecessary testing and treatments.

  • Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disease or jumper's knee is a similar condition, but the pain is usually over the lower part of the knee cap and not below the knee cap as it is in Osgood-Schlatter disease.

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