by Jennifer Mohns, DPT
Does your child have a bump on their knee? It is painful to kneel on the ground on play sports? This condition is actually pretty common in children who participate in gymnastics or high impact sports such as soccer, basketball, and volleyball. This pathology is called Osgood-Schlatter disease.
Osgood-Schlatter is the swelling of the bump on the anterior tibial tubercle, which is the front of the shin bone right below the knee. This pathology is usually caused by repetitive stress or overuse to the leg before the muscles and bones have finished growing. Higher impact sports with a lot of running on hard ground is a large factor in sustaining this injury.
The most important symptoms to look for with your child are a swollen bump on the shin bone, pain with running or jumping, and tenderness with pressure on the area. Osgood-Schlatter is more common in boys between ages 10-16 years. This disease can occur in one knee or both.
What is happening to the knee when my child has Osgood-Schlatter disease? First of all, the swollen bump causes pain and irritation to the tissues and muscles around the knee joint, which usually limits the child’s range of motion. The quadriceps muscle which is right above the knee does a lot of work to support the knee. When this muscle is overused in sport activities during a growth spurt the area then becomes swollen and painful. The child will usually start to limp with walking and attempting to negotiate stairs.
How do I get my child tested for Osgood-Schlatters disease? You can either take your child to their primary care doctor or to a physical therapist. An x-ray is used occasionally to diagnosis Osgood-Schlatter disease but it rarely picks up the swelling or abnormality.
Treatment for Osgood-Schlatter disease varies depending on the severity of the disease. First, the child must rest and take a break from high impact physical activity for a couple of weeks. Applying ice and taking Ibuprofen or an NSAID will help to decrease swelling and pain. Physical therapy helps to increase range of motion, flexibility, strength, and balance for the child. The physical therapist will help the child to transition back into jumping, running, and participating in sports. Treatment times vary but usually take about 4-6 weeks. In rare cases the child will need surgery as another option. The disease will usually heal and go away on its own once the child stops growing.
Dr. Mohns is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine