General Health & Wellness • Mar 05, 2019

“My knees hurt!” | Osgood-Schlatter Explained

As kids progress from childhood to adolescence they can end up with a number of aches and pains related to growth.  Growth plate related pain makes up a huge number of visits to sports medicine clinics and even the pediatrician’s office.  One of the main places we see growth plate related pain is in the knee.  When girls or boys are around the age of 10-15 they might start to complain of pain below the kneecap.  You may even notice bumps forming in the areas of pain.  This pain was named for the two physicians who originally named it, Osgood and Schlatter.  Osgood-Schlatter disease sounds like something scary but it is a common diagnosis that affects many young athletes.

What Causes Osgood-Schlatter?

Why do young people get pain in their growth plates?  There are a few reasons.  Sometimes simply spending hours per day playing sports can be the culprit.  Lots of running and pounding on vulnerable growing areas can cause pain.  Another reason can be tight muscles.  Troubles with flexibility can lead to growth plate pain as well.

What You Can Do About Osgood-Schlatter

If your doctor diagnoses your child with Osgood-Schlatter, what can you do?

  • Work on flexibility: Your pediatrician, sports medicine doctor, athletic trainer or physical therapist can give your son or daughter some stretches for their quad muscles (the big muscles on the front of the thigh). Stretching out these muscles can help improve pain.
  • Ice and anti-inflammatories: Icing right over the sore area below the knee (especially after activities) can help. I recommend filling paper Dixie cups with water and freezing them.  Then the athlete can massage the stick of ice over the affected area.  You can also use anti-inflammatories as needed.
  • Patellar tendon strap: Placing a small Velcro strap just below the knee cap can sometimes be effective in relieving pain related to Osgood-Schlatter. You can find these online or at sporting goods stores.
  • Rest: If your child is limping on the field or the pain is worsening, they need to stop all activities.  Limping on the court or field can lead to other injuries that can be season-ending.

As always, if the pain is worsening or there is noticeable limping, this is a good time to visit your pediatrician or sports medicine doctor.  They may recommend doing X-rays to check for other causes of knee pain.  The pain related to Osgood-Schlatter will eventually go away once your child is done growing in that part of the body.  Until then, the goal is to keep them on the field and as pain-free as possible using the above measures.