Osgood-Schlatter disease is the inflammation of the Tibial Tubercle, which is where the Patellar Tendon connects to the kneecap, running down to the shinbone. The primary cause of the condition is sudden growth spurts, which is further exacerbated by physical activity (not necessarily excessive activity, it must be noted). For these reasons, Osgood-Schlatter disease mainly affects teenagers, especially those who play sports or exercise. Although it can be uncomfortable, the condition rarely has any major health ramifications, and will disappear as the teen’s growth starts to plateau.
When we are young, many of the bones throughout our body have growth plates, which allows for us to go through sudden growth spurts without sustaining serious, long-term damage. As we grow older, these solidify and merge with the rest of the bone.
The issue with Osgood-Schlatter disease can largely be attributed to Patellar Tendon pulling on the Tibial Tubercle. This of course is most likely to happen during periods of sudden growth, when the growth plates expand at a rate faster than the Patellar is capable of keeping up with. If this is coupled with vigorous exercise, the Patellar will pull more frequently and with more force. All of this pulls the Tibial Tubercle, which causes it to become inflamed.
The first symptom of Osgood-Schlatter disease is pain located primarily on the underside of the kneecap, as if in the ‘gap’ between the knee and the shin. The condition is usually confined to or worse in one leg. However, it can affect both legs equally in some cases, although this is less common.
One of the main results of Osgood-Schlatter is that the Tibial Tubercle will increase in size the more it is pulled. This will not reverse, but it will not have any long-term health effects, and simply leave behind a bump that may appear slightly bigger than typically expected. Other symptoms include tenderness or pain in the area, and tightening of the surrounding muscles.
The best treatment for Osgood-Schlatter is to get plenty of rest. As the condition is exacerbated by sports and exercise, this can mean significantly cutting down on physical activity, possibly for months at a time. While this can be frustrating for teens, it is the most effective way to alleviate the pain and restore the area to good health as soon as possible. Easing into gentle leg stretches can also help reduce the force with which the Tibial Tubercle is pulled when the individual does exercise. If the pain is particularly bad, your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen.
Osgood-Schlatter can be a painful experience, but the good news is that its time is always limited, and it is extremely unlikely to have any long-term health effects. While it is not advisable to maintain normal levels of physical activity when dealing with this condition, it is often okay to engage in some level of exercise or gameplay. The condition will almost always disappear by 16 years of age.