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Osgood-Schlatter disease

 

Definition

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a painful swelling of the bump on the front, upper part of the lower leg bone. This bump is called the anterior tibial tubercle.

Alternative Names

Osteochondrosis

Causes

Osgood-Schlatter disease is thought to be caused by small, usually unnoticed, injuries caused by repeated overuse before growth of the area is complete. The disorder is seen most often in active, athletic adolescents, usually between ages 10 and 15. It is common in adolescents who play soccer, basketball, and volleyball, and who participate in gymnastics. Osgood-Schlatter disease affects more boys than girls.

Symptoms

The main symptom is a painful swelling just below the knee on the front (anterior) surface of the lower leg bone. Symptoms occur on one or both legs.

The person may have leg pain or knee pain, which gets worse with running, jumping, and climbing stairs.

The area is tender to pressure, and swelling ranges from mild to very severe.

Signs and tests

Your doctor can tell if you have this condition by performing a physical exam.

A bone x-ray may be normal, or it may show swelling or damage to the tibial tubercle. X-rays are rarely used unless the doctor wants to rule out other causes for the pain.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Most cases get better on their own after a few weeks or months. Most cases eventually go away once the child finished growing.

Adolescents should be allowed to play sports if the activity does not cause discomfort. However, the condition will get better faster if such activity is kept to a minimum.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if your child has knee or leg pain, or if pain does not get better with treatment.

Complications

Chronic pain is the most significant complication.

Treatments

Treatment starts with rest, ice, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. In many cases, the condition will get better using these methods.

In the rare case where symptoms do not go away, a cast or brace may be used to support the leg until it heals. This typically takes 6 - 8 weeks. Crutches may be used for walking to keep weight off the painful leg.

Rarely, surgery may be needed.

Prevention

The small injuries that may cause this disorder are usually unnoticed, so prevention may not be possible. Regular stretching, both before and after exercise and athletics, can help prevent injury.

References

Patel DR. Musculoskeletal injuries in sports. Prim Care. Jun 2006; 33(2): 545-79.

Cassas KJ. Childhood and adolescent sports-related overuse injuries. Am Fam Physician. Mar 2006; 73(6): 1014-22.

Mercier LR. Osgood-Schlatter disease. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. 9th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2009:593.


Review Date: 12/1/2008
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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