Osgood-Schlatter disease

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition that causes knee pain in adolescents.

Key points about Osgood-Schlatter disease

  1. It usually affects boys aged between 11–15 and girls 8–13.
  2. It is caused by the overuse of quadricep (thigh) muscles, often due to excessive sports. 
  3. Common symptoms include pain just below your kneecap that gets worse with activity. Sometimes a small hard bony bump can form under your kneecap. 
  4. The condition is not serious or harmful and will go away itself without any treatment after few weeks to months. 
  5. Treatment aims to relieve your symptoms. It includes resting, pain relief medicines, physiotherapy, knee support and, rarely, surgery. 

What are the causes of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease affects the upper part of your shin bone (tibia) due to the overuse of the quadricep muscles (located on the front of your thigh). 

In adolescents, the tibia is still growing. Overuse of the quadricep muscles can cause stress on the attachment of the patellar (kneecap) ligament to the upper part of the growing tibia. The growing tibia is not strong enough to withstand the stress on it, therefore, causing redness and pain just below your kneecap.

In some cases, the ligament may pull a small flake of bone off the tibia and cause a callus (healing bone) to form, which may cause a hard bony bump. 

You are at a higher risk of getting Osgood-Schlatter disease if you are:

  • a boy
  • a teenager
  • playing a lot of sports that involve kicking, running or jumping.

What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Common symptoms include:

  • pain just below your kneecap that gets worse during and after activity
  • pain that gets better after resting
  • pain that can last for a few months up to 2 years
  • a small, hard and tender bony bump or swelling under your kneecap.

Symptoms usually happen on one side but can also happen on both knees. Knee movement is usually not affected. 

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions related to your symptoms and examine your knee area. They may also order a knee x-ray to rule out other conditions. 

How is Osgood-Schlatter disease treated?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is not a serious or harmful disease. It can go away by itself without any treatment once the tibia has reached its maturity. 

If treatment is needed, the following treatment will aim to relieve your symptoms:

  • Resting and icing affected knee – avoiding excessive sports and exercise can help reduce your pain. Icing your affected knee can also help. 
  • Pain relief medicines – a short course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may be helpful. 
  • Physiotherapy – stretching and strengthening exercises are particularly helpful to strengthen the muscles around your knee to help reduce pain. 
  • Knee support – knee tape, splint or crutches can help to support your knee.
  • Surgery – in very rare cases, surgery may be done to remove the bony bump if symptoms don't go away after the above treatment. 

What is the outlook for someone with Osgood-Schlatter disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease is not a serious or harmful disease. It can go away itself after several weeks to months without any treatment once the tibia reaches its maturity. 

Learn more

Osgood-Schlatter disease Patient Info, UK
Osgood-Schlatter disease MSD Manuals, US
Osgood-Schlatter syndrome Family Doctor, NZ

References

  1. Osgood-Schlatter syndrome Family Doctor, NZ
  2. Osgood-Schlatter disease Patient Info, UK
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Sandra Bennett, GP, Wellington Last reviewed: 30 Nov 2020