What is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Osgood-Schlatter Disease (OSD) is a growth-related overuse injury of the knees caused by the patellar tendon (tendon from the kneecap) pulling on the growth plate where the tendon attaches to the shinbone (the tibial tubercle). OSD causes pain and swelling just below the kneecap. In some cases, the body will try to stop the pulling by filling the gap between the bone and tendon with new bone growth, resulting in a bony lump. OSD may also be known as apophysitis of the tibial tubercle.
What is a Growth Plate?
In growing children and adolescents, bones grow from the ends. A growth plate is an area of cartilage located near the end of a bone where growth takes place, as children age and mature, these plates harden into solid bone. In the knees, the tibial tubercle covers the growth plate at the end of the shinbone. In the knee, the quadriceps muscles attach to the the cover of the shin bone’s growth plate (the tibial tubercle) through the patellar tendon.
What Causes Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
OSD is caused by the quadriceps muscles pulling on the patellar tendon that then pulls on the tibial tubercle. The repeated stress of physical activities like running and jumping cause the swelling, pain, inflammation, and in some cases a bony growth. While physical activity plays a key role in developing OSD, other risk factors include:
- Gender: OSD is more common in boys than girls, although the gap is closing
- Age: OSD happens during the growth spurts of puberty. For girls, ages 10 to 13 and boys ages 12 to 14
- Activity: OSD is more common in children who are highly active, especially in sports that involve running, jumping and quick direction changes
- Flexibility: Tight quadriceps muscles can increase pulling on the tendon and growth plate
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
Signs and symptoms of OSD typically happen in one knee but both knees can be affected at the same time. Symptoms can last from a week to months, and may go away and return with growth spurts. Common OSD symptoms include:
- A lump or bump below the kneecap that’s painful tender to the touch
- Knee pain that increases with exercises and decreases with rest
- Swelling below the kneecap at the top of shinbone (tibia)
- Limping after physical activities like running, jumping or climbing stairs
How is Osgood-Schlatter Disease Treated?
Treatment for OSD focuses on reducing pain and improving strength to prevent recurrence. You can treat mild cases of OSD at home with rest, ice, and pain relieving medications. Physiotherapy is also recommended to prevent OSD for recurring. In some rare cases, surgery is needed for patients who have stopped growing but still experience OSD symptoms.
Physiotherapy for Osgood-Schlatter Disease
Physiotherapy aims to strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius muscles. Depending on the severity of your child’s OSD symptoms, physiotherapy treatments may include:
- Stretching and flexibility exercises to release tight quadriceps, relieve pain, and recurrence
- Strengthening exercises to stabilize the knee
- Activity modification and pain control
- Bracing to reduce pain and stress on the tibial tubercle
Will Osgood-Schlatter Disease go Away on its own?
Yes, OSD will eventually go away as your child grows, the growth plate closes, and the bone hardens. However, this can take years and cause recurring symptoms.