Osgood-Schlatter disease is a painful enlargement of the bump of the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee. This bump is called the tibial tuberosity. The tendon from the kneecap (patella) inserts here. Osgood-Schlatter disease is most often seen in children between the ages of 10 and 15 and usually appears during a period of rapid growth.
Osgood-Schlatter disease may be caused by overuse of the knee in normal childhood and sporting activities. It is possible that muscles are too tight in the front of the thigh, the back of the thigh, or in the calf.
Your child’s doctor will do a physical examination of the knee and review your child’s symptoms. X-rays show an enlarged tibial tuberosity. An x-ray may also show irregular or lose bony fragments from the tibial tuberosity.
Your child may need to rest or do activities that do not cause knee pain. Ice packs should be applied to the knee. If the knee is swollen, it should be elevated by placing a pillow under it. Your child’s doctor may prescribe a special padded brace. The doctor may prescribe medication and may recommend exercises. Treatment is designed to shorten the duration of pain, but nearly all cases of Osgood-Schlatter disease will resolve with time whether they are treated or not.
The goal of rehabilitation is to return your child to his or her sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If your child returns too soon the injury may recur. Permanent damage, however, is exceedingly rare. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to his or her sport or activity will be determined by how soon your child’s knee recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since the injury occurred. In general, the longer your child has symptoms before starting treatment, the longer it will take to get better.
Your child may safely return to his or her sport or activity when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
- Your child’s tibial tuberosity is no longer tender.
- The injured knee can be fully straightened and bent without pain.
- The knee and leg have regained normal strength compared to the uninjured knee and leg.
- Your child is able to jog straight ahead without limping.
Osgood-Schlatter disease may be difficult if not impossible to prevent. The most important thing to do is to have your child limit activity as soon as he or she notices the painful bump on the top of the shin bone. This will probably shorten the duration of symptoms. Proper warm-up and stretching exercises of the thigh, hamstring, and calf muscles may help prevent Osgood-Schlatter disease.