Osgood-Schlatter disease is inflammation of the bone and cartilage at the top of the shinbone (tibia).
Osgood-Schlatter disease develops between the ages of 10 and 15. The disease is usually more common among boys, but this situation is changing as girls become more active in sports programs. The cause is thought to be repetitive, excessive pulling by the tendon of the kneecap (patellar tendon) on its point of attachment at the top of the shinbone. This attachment point is called the tibial tubercle.
The major symptoms are pain, swelling, and tenderness at the tibial tubercle. The pain worsens with activity and is relieved with rest. Swelling and tenderness eventually develop at the site.
X-rays of the knee may show the tibial tubercle has enlarged or has broken into fragments. However, x-rays are not needed unless pain and swelling extend beyond the area over the tibial tubercle or unless pain is accompanied by redness and warmth. In such cases, x-rays are useful to rule out injuries or severe inflammatory conditions.
Avoiding sports and excessive exercise helps reduce pain. Avoiding deep knee bending is particularly helpful. However, doctors do allow children with Osgood-Schlatter disease to continue to participate in sports or exercise even when they are in pain. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), stretching exercises, and application of ice on the affected knee may help relieve the pain. Symptoms usually resolve after several weeks or months.
Last full review/revision February 2008 by Frank Pessler, MD, PhD; David D. Sherry, MD