Children's Hospital Colorado

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter refers to a condition occurring during adolescence that causes pain, swelling and soreness on an area of the upper shin bone (tibia) below the knee cap, called the tibial tuberosity. The medical term for this condition is "tibial tubercle apophysitis."

During a certain period of the adolescent growth spurt, the tibial tuberosity can be overused when a child is involved in a lot of running and jumping activities. The kneecap tendon places traction on the growing bone, which can lead to inflammation and swelling in the area of the upper shin/knee. Osgood-Schlatter disease is a particularly common basketball injury.

Who gets Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter only occurs during a certain period of adolescence, when the tibial tuberosity is going through a rapid growth spurt. In girls, this typically happens around the ages of 10 to 12 and in boys between ages 12 and 14.

Osgood-Schlatter is more common in active, athletic children. This condition is difficult to prevent completely, but modifying the amount of activity when a child is experiencing pain will help.

What are signs and symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Young athletes with Osgood-Schlatter complain of pain with physical activity and have tenderness over the upper shin bone. There is often a noticeable bump or area of swelling over the tibial tuberosity (shin bone below the knee cap). The bump can be warm or painful to touch, and it hurts when it is bumped, hit or kneeled on. The pain and swelling often improve with rest.

How is Osgood-Schlatter diagnosed?

Doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado diagnose Osgood-Schlatter based on the disease's common symptoms and a physical examination of your child. Knee X-rays are sometimes taken to get a closer look at the growing area of bone or to look for other causes of knee pain.

Our doctors also look for signs of activity-related pain and swelling in the lower knee in athletes whose bones are still growing rapidly.

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease treated?

Experts in our Sports Medicine Center treat Osgood-Schlatter by controlling the pain. This condition can be frustrating, as the child is prone to this pain during the length of their growth spurt (usually about two years). Once the growth spurt is over, the pain should resolve. Learn more about common growing pains.

In the meantime, your child may choose to participate in fewer or lower-impact activities to avoid the pain. This should be encouraged based on the level of pain, but your child can return to activity once the pain is under better control.

Placing an ice pack over the painful area after activity can be helpful. For severe pain, over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may also help.

Physical therapy and stretching the muscles around the knee, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles, help to protect the knee and are recommended. Knee bracing also helps some patients.

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