Osgood-Schlatter Disease is a common overuse injury that affects children and teenagers. It causes a painful lump just below the kneecap, typically as a result of repetitive use of the joint. Most often, it happens in children that are active in running sports like soccer, volleyball, ballet, basketball, and figure skating. The condition occurs during puberty when the child is experiencing growth spurts and is seen more frequently in boys.
When participating in activities that require a lot of jumping, running, and bending, the thigh muscles tug on the tendon connecting the child’s shinbone and kneecap. The repeated stress can sometimes pull the tendon away from the shinbone, which causes the swelling and pain that is associated with Osgood-Schlatter disease. A bony lump appears when the body attempts to compensate by filling the space with new bone growth.
Every child experiences Osgood-Schlatter disease differently. In some cases, discomfort may be mild and appear only during certain activities like jumping and running. Other children will experience constant pain that can become debilitating.
The condition is usually seen in only one knee but may be present in both. Pain and swelling can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. A bony lump may persist into the child’s adult life, but it does not often interfere with knee function.
In most cases, Osgood-Schlatter disease will go away on its own without medical care once the child reaches an age where the bones have finished growing. In the meantime, various home treatments and over-the-counter medications can help relieve symptoms. Some children benefit from stretching exercises and physical therapy.
Following RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) can go a long way in alleviating pain and swelling, as can acetaminophen and NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen. Children should also be encouraged to wear kneepads or tendon straps while participating in sports.