Growing is a pain with Osgood Schlatter’s Disease

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Scrapes, bumps and bruises are a natural part of a child’s life, something every parent can expect, and dread. Children grow and the laundry list of potential injures only gets longer, especially when sports are involved. No parent can protect their child completely; however, preventative measures can easily shrink the list of potential injuries, creating a stronger and more foundationally sound athlete.

The knee is a common site for injury, from dislocations to sprains and back again. One cause for knee pain is the irritation of the tendons surrounding the kneecap. Tendons connect muscles to bones providing a path for movement; irritation hinders that movement capacity.

The rundown:

Osgood Schlatters is an injury affecting the growth plate just below the knee where the patellar tendon connects to the lower leg, at the tibial tuberosity. Growth plates are the site of all bone growth throughout one’s lifetime, most prominently in one’s childhood. Osgood Schlatters happens most commonly between the ages of nine and fifteen, slightly earlier for girls (9-11) than boys (12-15) because of growth pattern differences. Boys have historically shown higher frequency of Osgood Schlatters, but the gender gap is quickly decreasing as more girls enter sports. 

Symptoms:

  • Knee pain at the tibial tuberosity (bony knob just below the knee cap)
  • Tightening of the muscles surrounding the knee
  • Inability to walk, bend or straighten knee completely 

Knee pain is the chief symptom for Osgood Schlatters, in more severe cases debilitating all movement. The pain will only worsen with activity; stopping all activity and resting the injured leg is the quickest way to recover. The “growing” pain can last up to a couple years, but will subside at the end of the adolescent’s growth period. There will most likely be some swelling around the tibial tuberosity, just under the kneecap, at the attachment point for the tendon.

Treatment:

Rest is the best remedy for reducing pain. Athletes can still play sports, as long as the pain doesn’t occur during the game. Ice will reduce the swelling and aid with the pain; the benefits of icing are best seen after a twenty-minute period, and should be repeated 3-4 times daily.  Weak quadriceps or hamstrings play a major role in causing Osgood Schlatters, placing increased pressure on the growth plate. Stretching the thigh muscles on a regular basis will increase flexibility and reduce tension, helping to avoid future injuries. Standing on one foot, bend the other knee backwards toward your butt muscles and gently grab your foot with one hand, using the other hand for balance. This pose will stretch the quadriceps muscles, loosening them for better movement and stability. Sitting on the ground with one leg extended straight in front of you, the other bent and relaxed, try and touch the toes of the extended leg. This hamstring stretch will help to loosen tight hamstrings and reduce the amount of pressure on the knee, and the growth plates.  Incorporating stretches into a regular routine is a good preventative measure, and will help to avoid future injuries. Strengthening the hamstring will give the muscle more power, supporting the knee and hip joint. Additionally, a stronger muscle will alleviate some of the pressure from the joints, preventing future injury. A good strengthening exercise to start with hamstring curls.  Lay with your back the floor, lift both legs in the air slightly (roughly 4 inches). Once your stable bend both legs horizontally back towards your body as close as you can to your butt. Make sure to stay controlled the entire time, going as slow as you need to stay in good form, not shifting to either side. Hamstring run is another good exercise, again laying in the same position, but this time alternating which leg you are bringing forward, still keeping the other one slightly lifted. Strengthening coincided with stretching is the best treatment for Osgood Schlatter’s, along with a myriad of other moderate injuries (sprains, strains, etc.).

References:

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (2007, August). Osgood-schlatter disease. Retrieved from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00411

Anne , H., DO, (n.d.). Osgood-schlatter disease. Retrieved from http://www.mcworthopaedics.com/pdf/hoch-anne/osgood-schlatter-disease.pdf

Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, N. K. (2012). Osgood-schlatter disease. In D. Zieve, D. Eltz, S. Slon & N. Wang (Eds.), U.S. National Library of Medicine. Bethesda, MD 20894: U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001258.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, March 19). Osgood-schlatter disease. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osgood-schlatter-disease/DS00392/DSECTION=symptoms

National Sports Medicine Information (2009). Osgood-schlatter disease. Retrieved from http://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/osgood-schlatter-disease.html