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Osgood-Schlatter Disease in Children

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease in children?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is an overuse condition. It’s when the tendon at the front of a knee becomes injured and inflamed. This tendon connects the thigh muscles to the knee and shin bone. It's also known as the patellar tendon.

What causes Osgood-Schlatter disease in a child?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is caused by the constant pulling of the tendon in the knee. It's seen in growing children and teens. This is an age where the bones are typically growing faster than the muscles and tendons. As a result, the muscles and tendons tend to become tight.

Which children are at risk for Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is common in young athletes who play games or sports that involve running, jumping, or going up and down stairs. These include football, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, or ballet. It most often affects children ages 9 to 14 who have undergone a rapid growth spurt.

What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease in a child?

In some cases, both knees will have symptoms. One knee may have more symptoms than the other. The following are common symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease. Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and tenderness below the knee

  • Swelling below the knee

  • Tight muscles in the front or back of the thigh

  • Limping (may get worse following jumping activities)

These symptoms may seem like other health problems of the knee. See your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider can diagnose Osgood-Schlatter disease with a complete health history and physical exam of your child’s knee. Your child may also need to have an X-ray of the affected knee.

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

The goal of treatment is to control your child’s knee pain and prevent the condition from getting worse. Treatment may include:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)

  • Medicines such as anti-inflammatories for discomfort and swelling

  • Elastic wrap, padding, or a neoprene sleeve around the knee

  • Limits on activity

  • Physical therapy to help stretch and strengthen the thigh and leg muscles

Osgood-Schlatter disease often goes away over time. In rare cases, your child may need surgery.

How can I help prevent Osgood-Schlatter disease in my child?

Your child can develop Osgood-Schlatter disease again. To prevent that from happening, have your child:

  • Do exercises to strengthen the thigh and leg muscles. Your child’s healthcare provider may recommend certain exercises or physical therapy.

  • Ice the knee area after being active. It can ease pain and swelling. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin.

Key points about Osgood-Schlatter disease in children

  • Osgood-Schlatter disease is an overuse condition that affects the tendons in the knee.

  • Growing children who are active in sports are most at risk for this disease. It’s common in children who participate in football, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, or ballet.

  • Pain and swelling in the knee area are the main symptoms.

  • Treatment includes RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) of the affected knee.

  • Your child may also have to limit certain activities, such as running.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s healthcare provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Rahul Banerjee MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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