Osgood-Schlalter Disease

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition that causes knee pain in some children during their adolescent growth spurt.


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Danny's Story

Danny's twelfth birthday marked the beginning of soccer season, a 4-inch growth spurt, and a lot of pain in his right knee. When Danny's coach asked him why he was limping, Danny told him that his knee hurt, especially when climbing stairs, kneeling, or jumping. His coach called his parents and suggested they take Danny to the doctor.

Danny's doctor examined the tender, swollen knee. When she pressed the area just below the kneecap gently, Danny grimaced in pain. The rest of the examination was normal. Danny had Osgood-Schlatter (OZ-good SHLAT-er) disease.

This diagnosis scared Danny at first, but quickly the doctor eased his mind by explaining that Osgood-Schlatter disease is a common condition in adolescent boys that almost always goes away on its own. It was named for an American surgeon, Robert Bayley Osgood (1873-1956), and a Swiss surgeon, Carl Schlatter (1864-1934), hence the long, serious-sounding name.

What Is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease refers to pain that occurs at the bump on the shin bone, or tibia (TIB-e-a), just below the knee. This spot is where a tendon * from the muscles of the thigh attaches to the shin after passing over the kneecap. Sometimes, especially during the adolescent growth spurt, the place where the shin bone is actively growing partially detaches from the rest of the bone, resulting in pain and swelling. This problem most often occurs in children between the ages of 10 and 15, especially those who are active in sports, and it affects more boys than girls.

* tendon (TEN-don) is a fibrous cord of connective tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone or other structure.

Osgood-Schlatter disease usually goes away after the growth spurt ends. To treat the symptoms, doctors suggest taking over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen (i-bu-PRO-fun) or acetaminophen (a-set-a-MEE-no-fen), stretching well before exercising, and cutting back on sports that require contraction of the quadriceps (KWOD-ri-seps) muscle of the thigh, such as squat thrusts or running. Some doctors will put a cast on the leg to limit a child's activity. Continuing to play sports usually will not make the condition worse, but it can delay the healing process. In a few cases, the problem does not go away on its own, because abnormal bony structures form or small pieces of bone become detached. In these cases, surgery may be required to remove the bone fragments.

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