Growth plates are cartilage areas near the bones’ ends in children and adolescents. Most of the bone’s growth happens at the growth plate, which is weaker than the rest of the bone.
Some growth plates are the attachment sites for tendons. Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) occurs when the tendon connecting the shinbone to the kneecap pulls over the growth plate at the top of the shinbone.
During growth spurts, bones, muscles, tendons and other structures change quickly and at different rates. Physical activity puts additional stress on bones and muscles, so children ages 9-14 who engage in sports—especially if there is much running and jumping—are at an increased risk for Osgood-Schlatter disease.
Pain and swelling below the kneecap in one or both knees after running, jumping or playing sports is the main symptom of OSD. Other symptoms include:
- Pain when going up stairs, and walking uphill
- Tight muscles in the front or back of the thigh
- A pronounced bump at the tibial tubercle, the growth plate at the end of the tibia
Your child’s doctor will ask about the child’s symptoms and general health, then examine the knee by applying pressure to the tibial tubercle. The area will be tender and painful in a child with Osgood-Schlatter disease.
In addition, the doctor may also ask your child to walk, run, jump, or kneel to see if the movements cause pain.
They may also recommend an x-ray of the child’s knee to help confirm the diagnosis or rule out other problems.
In most cases, treatment is straightforward, focusing on reducing pain and swelling. Your child’s doctor may recommend the following:
- Limiting activities that exacerbate symptoms
- Stretching exercises or physical therapy
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen
- Icing the inflamed area
When a child stops growing, the growth plates harden, and the risk of OSD disappears.
If you think your child may have symptoms of OSD, call (978) 794-1946 or (603) 898-2244 immediately to schedule an appointment or take advantage of our walk-in clinic in Haverhill and Andover Monday – Friday 8am-12pm and 1pm-3pm.