Osgood-Schlatter Disease (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Osgood-Schlatter is a common condition in young
athletes that refers to irritation of a growth plate at the knee. It typically
occurs in active teens during their growth spurt and resolves after the bone
stops growing.


Children have growth plates called
apophyses where muscles and tendons attach. The patellar
tendon of the knee connects the knee cap quadriceps (thigh) muscles to the shin
bone at the tibial tubercle (bump below the knee). This growth plate is attached
to the shin bone by cartilage and is subject to stress from overuse when the
quadriceps muscles repetitively pull while running or jumping.


The main symptom of Osgood-Schlatter is pain at
the bump below the knee with activity or after a fall. There may also be
swelling around or enlargement of the bump. This bump is usually very tender to
the touch. Forceful contraction of the thigh muscles can also cause pain. This
condition may occur in one or both knees.


Treatment is designed to decrease stress at the
tendon attachment site. In severe cases, athletes may need to stop or back off
from their sport. Ice the injury for at least 20 minutes after activity with
either an ice cup or an ice pack. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

may also help with swelling and pain. A patellar tendon strap placed between the
bump and the knee cap may help reduce pain. A knee pad may help protect the area
from direct trauma in wrestling, football, volleyball, or basketball. Stretching
of the hamstring and quadriceps muscles is also recommended.


Osgood-Schlatter disease is common in athletes
with repetitive stress on the growth plate below the knee. The condition usually
resolves on its own as the athlete finishes growing. By treating symptoms and
preventing further injury, most athletes can continue to play. In some cases
calcification within the tendon can continue to cause symptoms even after growth
has finished.