Osgood-Schlatter (say: oz-good shlaw-ter) disease is one of the most common causes of knee pain in kids who play sports. Usually only one knee is affected, but both can be. There may be a slightly swollen, warm, and tender bony bump at the top of the lower leg, about 2 inches below the kneecap. The bump hurts when pressed. It also hurts when a kid kneels, jumps, runs, squats, or does anything that bends or fully extends the leg.
Just what causes the pain? First you have to know a little bit about how the knee is put together. The quadriceps tendon attaches the large, powerful quadriceps (say: kwad-rih-seps) muscle to the kneecap. Another tendon — the patellar (say: puh-teh-lur) tendon — attaches this big thigh muscle to the shin bone.
Your muscles and tendons work together when you move your legs. Someone who plays sports uses their knees and legs a lot. All this activity means the patellar tendon pulls at the attachment to the shin bone a lot. That's what causes the pain of Osgood-Schlatter disease.
Although boys are more likely to develop the condition, many girls involved in sports — like gymnastics or soccer — develop it, too. If your doctor suspects Osgood-Schlatter disease, he or she may arrange for X-rays of your knee just to make sure that there isn't another problem. Your doctor also might send you to an orthopedist (say: or-tho-pee-dist), a doctor specially trained to understand bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
If it's Osgood-Schlatter, resting the knee may be helpful in getting the pain to settle down. Applying ice directly to the painful area after vigorous activities can help, and your mom or dad may also give you pain-relieving medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Learning how to properly stretch your hamstring and quadriceps muscles is also an important part of the treatment of this condition. With rest, stretching, and time, the pain usually goes away. Kids with Osgood-Schlatter don't have to give up sports, but they may have to limit their activities for a few weeks or months until the pain improves.
Now for the really important question: Who in the heck are Osgood and Schlatter? Robert Bayley Osgood, a U.S. orthopedist, and Carl Schlatter, a Swiss surgeon, were the two doctors who described this knee problem in 1903. For their good work, the condition was named after them and a little knee condition got a very big name!
Reviewed by: Peter G. Gabos, MD
Date reviewed: November 2007