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Boy running soccer drills with his coach.

Understanding Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Author: CHKD Sports Medicine, Robert Liebau, MSEd, LAT, ATC
Published Date: Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Soccer drills. Jump shots. Sprints.

Active children, especially those who participate in youth sports that require running and jumping can develop a condition that causes chronic pain just below the knee. The condition, Osgood-Schlatter Disease (OSD), is characterized by a painful bump at the top of the shin bone caused by swelling at the tibial tubercle – the area where the thigh muscle is attached to the bone.

This attachment site is also the growth center of the shine bone. As children grow, the bone often lengthens faster than the muscle can. This causes a decrease in flexibility. As a result, when the thigh muscle contracts, it causes excessive strain at the growth plate which, over time, can leads to irritation, swelling, and pain.

OSD occurs in active children and young teens, usually between the ages of 10 and 14, who have entered puberty. The knee pain usually increases with physical activity, but there are many strategies to treat OSD that will allow the athlete to continue participating in their sport. First and foremost, it’s important to rest from aggravating activities following acute flare-ups. Other strategies include the following:

  • Strengthening the thigh and hip muscles to address any underlying weakness that may contribute to abnormal strain.
  • Improving flexibility through stretching exercises.
  • Icing the area after exercise to help manage the pain.
  • Wearing proper-fitting shoes for the specific activity.
  • Using padding or a special knee brace when participating in sports that involve kneeling or landing on the knees, such as wrestling, basketball, and volleyball.

Your child’s doctor may recommend physical therapy. Some athletes with OSD may also be helped by having a topical medication applied to the area of pain through iontophoresis while in physical therapy.

OSD usually resolves when that area of bone stops growing, around the age of 13 to 15. Some children may notice a bump on the front of the leg below the knee that doesn’t go away. This is a long-term effect of OSD but shouldn’t cause pain.

While OSD is one of the common causes of knee pain in active children, it’s always a good idea to talk with your school’s athletic trainer or make an appointment with a CHKD sports medicine physician to help determine the source of knee pain and develop an individualized treatment plan.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.