CHOC Children's
ADOLESCENT MEDICINE :: Orthopaedic Problems

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is an overuse condition or injury of the knee that causes pain and swelling below the knee area over the shin bone.

What causes Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is characterized by inflammation of the patellar tendon and surrounding soft tissues. It is caused by the constant pulling of the patellar tendon on the area below the knee where the tendon attaches.

Illustration demonstrating Osgood-Schlatter disease
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Who is affected by Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is commonly seen in the growing child and adolescent. This is an age where the bones are typically growing faster than the muscles and tendons. As a result, the muscles and tendons have a tendency to become tight.

Osgood-Schlatter disease is most often seen in preteen and teenage boys from 11 to 15 years old. It is occasionally diagnosed in girls ages 8 to 13. Osgood-Schlatter is common in young athletes who play games or sports that involve running and jumping.

Factors which increase the likelihood of Osgood-Schlatter disease may include the following:

  • tight quadriceps (front thigh) muscles
  • tight hamstrings (back thigh) muscles

What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

The following are the most common symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease. However, each adolescent may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • tenderness below the knee
  • swelling around the knee
  • limping (may worsen following activities)

The symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems of the knee. Always consult your adolescent's physician for a diagnosis.

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Osgood-Schlatter disease may include:

  • x-rays - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. X-rays may be performed to rule out other lesions.

Treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease:

Specific treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease will be determined by your adolescent's physician based on:

  • your adolescent's age, overall health, and medical history
  • the extent of the condition
  • your adolescent's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to control the knee pain and limit your teen's activities that could aggravate the condition. Treatment may include:

  • R.I.C.E. - rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  • medications (for discomfort)
  • elastic wrap or a neoprene knee sleeve around the knee
  • activity restrictions
  • physical therapy (to help stretch and strengthen the thigh and leg muscles)

Long-term outlook for an adolescent with Osgood-Schlatter disease:

Osgood-Schlatter disease often resolves with time. Rarely is surgery required for this condition.

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Online Resources of Adolescent Medicine

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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