What is Osgood-Schlatter’s?
Osgood-Schlatter’s is an overuse injury that most commonly affects teenagers who are physically active and/or are experiencing growth spurts. It affects approximately 20% of athletic adolescents and about 5% of adolescents who do not play sports. The condition is marked by pain and swelling at the proximal tibia (the portion of the shin bone closest to the knee joint) that worsens with exercise. During running and jumping, the muscles and tendons of the upper leg pull against the patellar tendon. This can cause increased pain at the tibial tubercle (the point where the patellar tendon inserts onto the tibia bone).
Why Does Osgood-Schlatter’s Primarily Affect Adolescents?
Osgood-Schlatter’s is especially common in adolescents because the patellar tendon inserts over a growth plate, a portion of the tibia made up of cartilage, which allows for growth but which is softer and more sensitive than solid bone. When a young athlete stresses the patellar tendon repeatedly – for instance, during running and jumping – the tendon can pull away from the tibia at the growth plate. The tendon’s pulling away from the soft portion of bone causes the bony prominence that is characteristic of Osgood-Schlatter’s disease. Osgood-Schlatter’s is most common in adolescents who have recently experienced a growth spurt because their rapidly growing muscles, tendons, and bones are more vulnerable to damage. Pain and inflammation caused by Osgood-Schlatter’s can be managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), ice, rest, quadriceps stretching, and activity modification. The condition usually resolves without treatment when the growth plates fuse at the end of the adolescent growth spurt – around age 14 for girls and age 16 for boys.