Osgood-Schlatter disease

Presenting in children aged between 11 and 15, with girls typically contracting the disease earlier than boys due to faster maturation, Osgood-Schlatter disease results in a painful swelling and sometimes a lump below the kneecap while children experience growth spurts during puberty. The condition affects as much as 1 in 5 adolescent athletes and around 4 times as many children who play sports than those who do not, and is associated particularly with sports involving much sprinting, jumping, and abrupt turning (e.g. football, gymnastics, basketball).


Painful tenderness and swelling below the kneecap, at the front upper part of the shinbone where it meets the knee. The pain is worsened by activity such as running and using stairs, and lessened through rest. Surrounding muscles, principally the quadriceps, feel tighter and more difficult to manoeuvre than usual.

Some people experience mild pain and only intermittently during certain sports and exercises, while others are afflicted with nearly continuous pain to a debilitating degree. The disease generally presents in one knee but not always, and can last for weeks or months, often returning as the child continues to grow.


The disease is most common in children who partake in sports because repeated vigorous activity involving motions such as running and jumping can cause the thigh muscles to tug on the connecting tendon from the shinbone to the kneecap. If as a result the tendon moves slightly away from the shinbone, this causes the pain of Osgood-Schlatter disease. The lump which sometimes appears is due to the body’s attempt to fill in the gap left by the tendon with additional bone growth.


The disease usually resolves itself without formal medical treatment, as it is primarily related to a child’s growth. However, although the condition often heals within a month or so, its connection to growth means that in some cases symptoms may persist at intervals for as much as 2 years before the child’s body reaches full maturity.

There are a number of things you can do to help alleviate the pain associated with the condition. Key among these is resting the joint by limiting the amount of exercise likely to exacerbate the pain and swelling, including kneeling, running and jumping. Replace these with other activities such as swimming or cycling until symptoms subside. Icing the area can reduce both pain and swelling, while stretching important muscles such as the quadriceps and hamstring is essential to building their strength and curing tightness. Wearing kneepads during activities prevents the knee from unnecessary irritation.

Anti-inflammatory pain relief medications like ibuprofen may also be beneficial, but you should always check with a doctor before beginning a new course of medication. If available, physical therapy can provide the child with stretching and strengthening techniques.

Medical Appointment

Your doctor will examine the knee and check for symptoms such as tenderness, pain and swelling. They will test the movement of the knee, looking for how easily and how far it moves naturally until causing pain. An x-ray may be taken to examine the area around the kneecap and shinbone.

In rare cases the symptoms of the disease may continue into adulthood, and if you are concerned that there is a chance of this then you should talk to a doctor about other possibilities for treatment.

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