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Osgood-Schlatter Disease

What Is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

Osgood-Schlatter (say: OZ-good SHLAW-ter) disease is one of the most common causes of knee pain in kids and teens who play sports. Usually only one knee is affected, but both can be.

What Are the Signs of Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

There may be a slightly swollen and tender bony bump at the top of the lower leg, about 2 inches below the kneecap. The bump hurts when pressed. It also hurts when a kid kneels, jumps, runs, squats, or does anything that bends or fully extends the leg.

What Causes Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

Just what causes the pain? Osgood-Schlatter disease happens during the growth spurt of puberty. Your bones, muscles, and tendons grow at different rates then. In OSD, the tendon that connects the shinbone to the kneecap pulls on the growth plate at the top of the shinbone. Activities and sports cause this to happen over and over, which injures the growth plate. This leads to the pain of OSD.

Although boys are more likely to develop the condition, many girls involved in sports — like gymnastics or soccer — develop it too.

Osgood-Schlatter disease usually goes away when the bones stop growing. This is when a teen is between 14 and 18 years old.

What Do Doctors Do?

If your doctor suspects Osgood-Schlatter disease, he or she may arrange for X-rays of your knee just to make sure that there isn't another problem. Your doctor also might send you to an orthopedist (say: or-tho-PEE-dist), a doctor specially trained to understand bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

If it's Osgood-Schlatter:

  • Rest the knee to help the pain to settle down.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the knee every 1–2 hours for 15 minutes at a time. Put a thin towel between the ice and your skin to protect it from the cold.
  • Your mom or dad may give you pain-relieving medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If you play sports, it can help to:

  • Wear shock-absorbing insoles in your sneakers and cleats.
  • Put a heating pad or warm washcloth on the knee for 15 minutes before sports.
  • Put ice on the knee for 15 minutes after the activity (with a towel between the ice and the skin).
  • Wear protective kneepads, especially for wrestling, basketball, and volleyball.
  • Stretch before and after sports.

With rest, the pain usually goes away. Kids with Osgood-Schlatter don't have to give up sports, but they may have to limit their activities until the pain improves.

Reviewed by: Alvin Su, MD
Date reviewed: January 2019

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