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Sports injuries – Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease

Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease – knee pain in children

Rosemary Marchese – Physiotherapist

Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease is a condition affecting the top of the shin bone (tibia) where the tendon from the knee cap (patella) attaches. It’s more common in boys but generally happens in children that play a lot of sport.  It is an overuse injury that responds quite well to rest in most cases. The pain is experienced during exercise, particularly in running and jumping exercises.

What are the signs and symptoms? 

  • Local pain and tenderness, and sometimes swelling just below the patella (over the tibial tuberosity)
  • Pain with exercise or even with touching
  • Pain with stairs, squatting and kneeling
  • Quadricep muscles may be weakened if the situation progresses
  • Enlargement at the tibial tuberosity

Why does Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease happen?

Generally the condition happens in both legs and occurs because there is excessive force at the tibial tuberosity. It’s common during adolescence when there are high rates of growth and this site is susceptible to damage. In boys this is from about 11-15 years of age and girls from abut 8-13 years of age.

What are the common activities that cause Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease?

If children participate in highly repetitive sports where there are strong quadricep contractions involved they may be more at risk. These may include:

  • Jumping
  • Running
  • Volleyball
  • Netball
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Dance
  • Gymnastics

What to do about it

Fortunately physiotherapy can often be very beneficial for this condition. While symptoms may come and go for 12-24 months before complete healing there is much to be done to ensure that the child can still be active, prevent ongoing damage and also prevent other secondary injuries.

Sometimes an X-ray is taken to ensure there is no fracture. Other than that there is usually no need for further investigation. A physiotherapist can assist with other underlying issues and causes and can advise regarding:

  • amount and type of sport
  • strengthening requirements that are contributing to the problem
  • flexibility requirements that are contributing to the problem
  • functional training required for sport
  • pain relief techniques
  • the need to refer to further specialists such as a podiatrist
  • the occasional use of crutches if and when required.

If you’re interested in finding out about any of our Kids’ Strength and Stretch classes contact our friendly Max Sports Physiotherapy team on (02) 8914 0508.