If your child is in early puberty chances are Osgood-Schlatter is the reason for the pain!
Osgood-Schlatter is a common cause of knee pain in adolescent children. It occurs just below the knee cap where the tendon from the knee cap (patellar tendon) attaches to the top of the shin bone (tibia).
Osgood-Schlatter disease occurs most commonly when a child is having a growth spurt as bones and tendons are growing rapidly. Sports that involve running, jumping and quick direction change can put kids at greater risk for developing the disease. Osgood-Schlatter is most often seen in girls between 10-13 years of age and in boys 12-14 years of age.
How does it occur?
Growth plates are areas of cartilage located at the ends of bones. When children are done growing this area hardens and becomes bone. Below the knee there is a bony bump that covers the growth plate called the tibial tubercle. The muscles from the quadriceps (thigh muscle) come down and attach to the tibial tubercle. When a child is active the quadriceps creates tension on the patellar tendon which in turn pulls on the tibial tubercle. Kids that participate in activities with repetitive running and jumping (soccer, basketball, dancing) can cause increased traction on the tubercle. The result is inflammation in the growth plate.
Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter
The most common complaint is knee pain. The pain is often brought on by running. The knee pain is often below the knee cap at the tibial tubercle. It can occur in one knee or both. Swelling can also be noted at the tibial tubercle. Pain and tight muscles are also possible in the front and back of the thighs. The knee pain can last weeks to months in some cases. Reoccurrence is also possible until the child has stopped growing.
Osgood-Schlatter is diagnosed by your child’s regular medical provider. Tenderness at the tibial tubercle is one of the signs they will use to diagnosis your child. A bump at the tibial tubercle is also very common. X-rays are sometimes used to help confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment for Osgood-Schlatter is rest. Minimizing running and jumping are helpful in reducing the pain. Ice to the area can also prove to be helpful. Pain medication such as ibuprofen can be beneficial. In addition, strengthening the muscles and tendons around the knee help reduce pain. Patellar tendon straps can provide some relief. As adolescents begin to complete growth around 14-16 years old the symptoms will resolve. A complication from Osgood-Schlatter is rare but if symptoms are not improving then it is best to be seen by an orthopedic specialist.