Osgood Schlatters

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

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Osgood-Schlatter Disease (OSD) is a common overuse injury that can cause knee pain in teenagers, particularly during growth spurts. It’s not a disease in the traditional sense, but rather a condition that results from the stress and strain placed on the knees during activities that involve running, jumping, and rapid changes of direction. Find out how to manage your Osgood-Schlatter Disease and learn about physiotherapy for Osgood Schlatter Disease

What is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

Osgood-Schlatter Disease is characterised by swelling and irritation of the growth plate at the top of the shinbone. A growth plate is a layer of cartilage near the end of a bone where most of the bone’s growth happens. Some growth plates serve as attachment sites for tendons, the strong tissues that connect muscles to bones. A bony bump called the tibial tubercle covers the growth plate at the end of the tibia. It is weaker and more at risk for injury than the rest of the bone.
During the growth spurt of puberty, the bones, muscles, and tendons grow at different rates. In Osgood-Schlatter Disease, the tendon that connects the shinbone to the kneecap pulls on the growth plate at the top of the shinbone (tibial tubercle). Activities and sports that involve a lot of running or jumping can cause this to happen repeatedly, leading to injury to the growth plate and the pain associated with Osgood-Schlatter Disease.

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease

The primary symptom of OSD is pain and swelling below the kneecap. The pain usually intensifies with running, jumping, going up stairs, and walking up hills. Severe pain may even lead to limping. OSD can occur in one or both knees, and may depend on what sport your play.
During sport and exercise your pain is often right on the bump at the front of the shin (see above) during jumping, landing, and running. In some severe case, kicking during field sports can also be painful. Osgood-Schlatter Disease is also a common issue for ballet dancers.

Diagnosis of Osgood-Schlatter Disease

To diagnose OSD, healthcare providers typically ask about physical activities and conduct a physical examination. Usually, no further medical examination is needed. However, in some extreme cases, your physiotherapist may send you for an X-ray to check for other knee problems.

Your physiotherapy assessment will involve several tests to make sure the diagnosis is correct. These include by feeling the structures around your knee and some physical testing to see what provokes symptoms. Using physical tests is a great way to track how you are recovering, and may includes things like squats, single leg squats and hopping.

Physiotherapy for Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Osgood-Schlatter Disease physiotherapy involves limiting activities that cause significant pain. There are also a range of other strategies to help reduce your symptoms of painful Osgood-Schlatter Disease including the following:

  1. Activity Modification: Reducing or modifying activities that cause pain, such as running, jumping, or kneeling, can help manage OSD. It’s important to rest and avoid activities that increase your the pain. Our physiotherapy team can help you work out how to manage your pain while continuing to be active. If your pain is mild, it’s generally okay to continue training and playing.
  2. R.I.C.E. Protocol: This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Resting the affected knee, applying ice to reduce swelling, using a compression bandage to support the knee, and elevating the knee can all help alleviate symptoms, particularly if there is swelling visible.
  3. Medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. Talk to your pharmacist or GP to ensure this is a good idea for you.
  4. Protective Padding: Using kneepads or a patellar tendon strap can provide support and reduce stress on the knee during activities.
  5. Physiotherapy Exercises: Specific exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility. These exercises should be done under the guidance of a physiotherapist. Some recommended exercises include reduced range of motion quad exercises like stretching or rolling, isometric quad exercises (static holds) like wall sits, and working on biomechanics.

Physiotherapy exercises should be tailored can also be beneficial to help manage your pain. These exercises often focus on stretching and strengthening the thigh and leg muscles. Foam rolling and soft tissue techniques to the quads are often effective at alleviating pain.

Your biomechanics may also play an important role in preventing pain with OSD, so making sure you jump and land with good technique often alleviates a lot of pain during sport and reduces the risk of recurring pain long term. Applying ice to the knee area after being active can help ease pain and swelling.

Osgood-Schlatter Disease exercises
Physiotherapy exercise for Osgood-Schlatter Disease.

Cross-training may also be an effective way to reduce pain from your Osgood-Schlatter Disease while maintaining fitness. This involves varying the types of physical activities to avoid overuse of the quads or too much pressure on the painful growth plate. Sometimes low intensity activity is pain free, and can help you maintain strength and fitness for when it is time to return to full training and play in sport.

It’s important to remember that Osgood-Schlatter Disease can usually resolve on its own once a person stops growing and typically doesn’t cause lasting problems. The goal of physiotherapy for Osgood-Schlatter Disease is to manage symptoms while keeping you as active as possible.

While Osgood-Schlatter Disease can be a painful and frustrating condition, understanding its causes, symptoms, and management strategies can help teens navigate this common growth-related challenge. As always, if you’re experiencing knee pain or other health concerns, it’s important to consult with a our expert Sports Physiotherapy and Physiotherapy team for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. If you are a Ballet Dancer with Osgood-Schlatter Disease, then make sure to talk to our expert Dance Physiotherapy team to get specialised care.

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