Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Diagnosis & treatment of adolescent knee pain in Asheville, NC

We often think of chronic knee pain as an adults-only condition, due to years of repetitive motion or arthritis. However, knee pain does occur in children and teens, particularly in young athletes during adolescence. One common cause is Osgood-Schlatter disease.

What is Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is an inflammation of the tibial tubercle—the bumpy area where the top of the shin bone meets the patellar (knee cap) tendon, which attaches the lower leg to the quadriceps (thigh muscles). It is characterized by pain and swelling in the front of the lower knee.

The tibial tubercle is part of what is known as the “growth plate,” or an area of bone that is still largely composed of cartilage until a person is fully grown. Excess strain on these tissues during childhood and adolescence can cause the patellar tendon to pull on the still-growing area of bone and cause significant irritation. We most commonly see the condition in athletic patients in their early teens, who are undergoing a growth spurt. Single-sport youth athletes, such as travel-team soccer players, are at the highest risk, as a heavy training load and little activity variation can place excess stress on the leg muscles and tendons.

The good news is that we can usually treat Osgood-Schlatter successfully without surgery and help a child get back to a full, active life without long-term effects. Our orthopaedic knee specialist, Dr. Matthew B. Massey, is highly experienced in treating children and teen athletes and provides compassionate care for our Asheville patients with Osgood-Schlatters.

What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

  • Pain and tenderness at the front of the knee
  • Swelling of the tibial tubercle (the bony bump on the front-center of the top of the shin bone)
  • A pronounced tibial tubercle bump
  • Tightness in the front or back thigh muscles

Diagnosing Osgood-Schlatter disease

The first step is to make an appointment with Dr. Massey for you and your child. He will begin by discussing your child’s health, activity level and symptoms with the two of you. Next, he will perform a physical examination to investigate the severity of symptoms and confirm Osgood Schlatters. This exam may include:

  • Pressing on the tibial tubercle (this typically feels very tender when Osgood-Shlatter disease is present)
  • Asking your child to jump, kneel, jog or walk and describe how each activity feels

Dr. Massey may also order X-rays to rule out any other injuries to the knee or lower leg bones.

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease treated?

The majority of patients with Osgood-Schlatter disease get better through non-surgical treatments, including modified activity, oral anti-inflammatories and icing, and physical therapy.

Your child will likely need to take several weeks or months away from strenuous activity, and may need a season away from competitive sports, especially if she is experiencing significant pain or if the condition is inhibiting normal movements.

With good attention to stretching, physical therapy, and rest, a child can usually return to sports within a few months. With proper care and guidance by a qualified doctor, symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease usually resolve completely by the time a growth spurt is over. However, patients who have had Osgood-Schlatter disease often have a more prominent tibial tubercle bump even after recovering.

Contact us for an appointment in Asheville or Valdese

If you suspect that your child has Osgood-Schlatter disease, a proper diagnosis from a qualified orthopaedic specialist is essential to take right steps to help your child overcome knee pain and ensure his knees stay healthy into adulthood.

Please contact our office today for an appointment with Dr. Massey.