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Osgood-Schlatter disease, sometimes referred to as Osgood's or OSD, is a condition that causes the bones, cartilage and tendons at the top of the shinbone or tibia where the patellar tendon is attached to become inflamed. The syndrome is most commonly found amongst active young people aged 8 to 15 years old but has also been known to affect some adults too.

Although it is called a disease, Osgood's is more of an injury that develops through overuse of the quadricep muscle, which, in an adolescent, causes strain on the developing tibia causing the bone to flake. This can result in a hard bony bump as the bone heals, which is why Osgood’s has the nickname ‘knobbly knee’.

Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease

The most common symptoms of Osgood’s include:

  • Swelling and tenderness in the knee
  • Redness around the knee
  • Tightening of the muscles around the knee
  • Worsening knee pain following exercise

These characteristics along with the presence of a small bony bump in the knee makes examinations by your GP relatively straightforward. Doctors will also check your range of movement and if necessary send you for an X-ray to confirm the condition and check the bone flaking.

Preventing injury

Due to the nature of Osgood’s, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of suffering from the condition. For example, during periods of a growth spurt, stretching exercises can be useful to reduce the tightness of muscles in the legs. Other helpful activities include carrying out proper warm up and cool down sessions before and after exercising as well as keeping physical activity to no more than 90 minutes and allowing plenty of time for rest afterwards.

Treatment

There are many different types of treatment available for Osgood’s with the most vital being resting. If the pain is unbearable, a physiotherapist can help create a stretching programme that reduces discomfort, while nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or using ice can provide immediate relief to pain and swelling.

With symptoms likely to come and go with Osgood’s, it is often advised that when symptoms are at their worst any form of physical activity should be stopped. However, when the pain is mild you can continue to be active but should wear suitable sporting accessories, such as shock-absorbent insoles, gel pads and knee pads.

Adult sufferers may be required to have regular massages or use a knee strap or support to reduce the tension to the knees. While in serious cases of Osgood’s, a plaster cast may need to be worn to manage the pain and surgery may be required to rectify any damage to the bones.

How long will it take to recover?

In young people, Osgood’s lasts until the end of their growth spurt, meaning pain can be suffered for weeks, months or even up to two years. Once over the injury, surgery can deal with any bone flaking that hasn’t healed, however, if the small bony lump has already appeared under the knee, this is permanent but will become painless over time.

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