If your teen is complaining about sore knees after basketball practice, they’re not alone. In fact, Osgood Schlatter Disease (OSD) is an extremely common condition for active, growing kids. Teens have enough to worry about without adding joint pain to the list. To better understand OSD, we spoke with Abigail Hamilton, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Banner – University Medicine Multispecialty Services Clinic in Tucson, AZ.
What are the risk factors?
“Osgood Schlatter Disease typically shows up when active athletes go through a growth spurt,” said Dr. Hamilton. “The patellar (kneecap) tendon, which attaches at the growth plate of your lower leg, can be stretched during a growth spurt.” Can your child relate to any of these possible risk factors?
- Exercise with lots of repeat motion
- Specialization in one sport
- A recent growth spurt
- Poor flexibility
- Previous injury to the knee
- Boys are more likely to experience OSD
OSD is typically diagnosed by a primary care physician. Because the condition is common among teens, a simple review of the symptoms and short physical examination are usually enough to come to a sure conclusion. Your child will feel some pain if you press just below the kneecap and patellar tendon.
“In cases of ongoing or severe symptoms, your physician may evaluate to rule out other causes of pain,” said Dr. Hamilton. They may recommend x-rays to confirm the diagnosis or refer you to a physical therapist for further evaluation and treatment.
Treatments for pain relief
“Osgood Schlatter Disease rarely develops into a more serious condition, but it can be painful.” Dr. Hamilton added, “Treatments will mostly address the symptoms, lessening pain and inflammation.” If your child is uncomfortable, try these effective treatments:
- Ice after activity and when swelling occurs
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen
Treatments for long-term relief
Osgood Schlatter Disease typically lines up with growth spurts but could remain uncomfortable throughout adolescence. Although it’s possible to play through pain, the better option is to focus on long-term solutions. Dr. Hamilton explained, “Young athletes can adjust to the rapid growth of their bones by focusing on flexibility. Regular stretching can alleviate the strain on the patellar tendon, lessening the pain.”
As important as flexibility is balanced strength. Athletes that only practice one sport tend to develop some muscle groups and ignore others. Dr. Hamilton recommended cross-training as an excellent way to avoid severe symptoms of OSD.
Learn more about teen health in these helpful articles written with Banner Health experts.