One of the most common pediatric knee conditions that we treat is called Osgood-Schlatter disease, and it develops as a result of excessive pressure and stress on the knee. Because it’s common in young athletes, our approach to treatment is dual focused. First and foremost, we work to calm and treat symptoms so that teens can get back to doing all the activities they love without pain. Once that process is underway, we also work to strengthen the knee so that the condition doesn’t return when the athlete gets back to regular physical activity. We explain our approach and how we can help your young athlete recover from Osgood-Schlatter disease in today’s blog.
The Causes And Symptoms Of Osgood-Schlatter
Osgood-Schlatter disease is a common health condition that tends to affect the knees of teens and young adults. Young athletes are especially prone to developing the condition because their age and activity levels are two of the biggest contributing factors to its onset. That’s because Osgood-Schlatter develops when excess stress is placed on the knee during a period of rapid bone growth. This excess stress irritates the area where the tendon attaches to the kneecap, causing a host of symptoms including:
- Pain, especially with activity
- Limited range of motion
Our bodies all grow at different rates, but boys and girls tend to experience periods of rapid growth around a similar time period. Females typically have a notable period of rapid bone growth around the ages of 11 and 12, while males tend to see this rapid growth around the ages of 13 and 14. It tends to be around this time that each group is most susceptible to OS onset, with ages 10-15 being the ages of prime concern, especially if the kids are active or engaging in athletics.
Obviously we all want our kids to be active and healthy, so inactivity isn’t the best way to avoid Osgood-Schlatter. Instead, we need to be conscious about our activity levels during these periods of rapid bone growth. Having your child participate in sports year-round or having too many practices and games without ample rest can be a recipe for OS onset, so be mindful of excessive sporting activities and ensure that your kids know that they should speak up if they start to develop pain or discomfort in any area of their body.
Diagnosing and Treating Osgood-Schlatter
If your child is complaining of any of the above symptoms, or if they are dealing with knee soreness that never goes away or frequently returns with activity, bring them into your primary care physician’s office or head to a physical therapist clinic for an assessment. The medical professional will begin by talking with your child about their symptoms and activity levels, reviewing their medical history and conducting a physical exam. During the physical assessment, the child will be asked to perform some simple maneuvers that will assess knee motion, strength and flexibility. They may also apply some light pressure to check for symptoms like swelling, tenderness or sensitivity. If a diagnosis of OS is made, the PT will move forward with a treatment plan, otherwise they may refer you to imaging to get a better idea of what’s going on in the knee.
If Osgood-Schlatter is the diagnosis, your physical therapist will develop a care routine and walk both the child and a parent or guardian through the exercises and expectations. Odds are an in-clinic and at-home therapy routine will be cultivated. Some of the goals of the PT plan will include:
- Range of Motion Increases – Assessing and working to increase range of motion in the knee area is key to improving overall function.
- Strength Training – Developing supportive muscle groups will help take pressure off the knee and prevent future recurrences of OS.
- Manual Therapy – PT-guided movements and stretches can help to reestablish motion and flexibility in the area.
- Patient Education – Ensuring that both patient and parent understand how to manage the condition and prevent or deal with flare ups is a must to help treat OS.
- Pain Management – We’ll work to help decrease pain and calm symptoms if they begin to start again as activity levels increase.
- Return To Sport – We’ll work with the patient to help slowly get them back to normal physical function so that they can return to sport without a heightened risk for recurrence.
If your child is complaining of regular knee soreness after soccer practice or a long day of activity, consider having their knee assessed by a physical therapist who can ensure Osgood-Schlatter doesn’t make physical activity painful. For more information or for help with any physical ailment, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.