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Osgood-Schlatter Disease

(Osgood-Schlatter's Disease)


Frank Pessler

, MD, PhD, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
Click here for the Professional Version

Osgood-Schlatter disease is painful inflammation of the bone and cartilage at the top of the shinbone (tibia).

  • This disease is caused by overuse of the leg.

  • Typical symptoms include pain, swelling, and tenderness at the knee.

  • The diagnosis is based on a physical examination and sometimes x-rays.

  • Treatment usually includes pain relief and rest.

Osgood-Schlatter disease develops between the ages of 10 and 15 and usually affects only one leg. The disease is usually more common among boys, but the gender gap is narrowing as more girls become involved in sports programs.

The cause of Osgood-Schlatter disease is thought to be repetitive, excessive pulling of the tendon of the kneecap (patella) where it attaches at the top of the shinbone. This attachment point is called the tibial tubercle.

The major symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease are pain, swelling, and tenderness at the tibial tubercle at the front of the knee just below the kneecap. The pain worsens with activity and is relieved with rest.

Diagnosis of Osgood-Schlatter Disease

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • Sometimes x-rays

Doctors base the diagnosis of Osgood-Schlatter disease on an examination and the child's symptoms.

X-rays Plain X-Rays X-rays are high-energy radiation waves that can penetrate most substances (to varying degrees). In very low doses, x-rays are used to produce images that help doctors diagnose disease. In high... read more of the knee may show the tibial tubercle has enlarged or has broken into fragments. However, x-rays are generally not needed unless the child has other symptoms, such as pain and swelling that extend beyond the knee or pain that is accompanied by redness and warmth. These symptoms suggest another disorder, such as an injury or joint inflammation.

Treatment of Osgood-Schlatter Disease

  • Measures to relieve pain

  • Rarely immobilization, corticosteroid injection, and surgery

Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter disease usually resolve after several weeks or months. Avoiding excessive exercise and deep knee bending helps reduce pain. However, doctors do allow children with Osgood-Schlatter disease to continue to participate in sports or exercise even when they are in pain.

Rarely, the leg may need to be immobilized in a plaster cast, a corticosteroid may need to be injected below the skin, or surgical procedures that involve the removal of fragments of bone, drilling, and grafting may be required.

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