Some kids may be diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease, a medical issue that is characterized by knee pain and/or swelling. It is typically seen in growing adolescents who are physically active in sports, especially sports that include activities such as running, jumping or dancing. Young patients experiencing this disease will typically receive their diagnosis from a pediatric orthopedic specialist.

Classic Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease in Kids

Pre-teens and teenagers are the ones most vulnerable to Osgood-Schlatter because their rapidly growing body is experiencing significant changes in the size and strength of bone, muscle, and tendons. This, along with their propensity for being involved in a wide variety of sports, makes kids more vulnerable to the disease. The classic signs of Osgood-Schlatter disease include sore knees, a bump on the knee (usually a bony bump on the upper part of the shin), along with complaints of pain resulting from physical activity. These complaints commonly arise from pain when running, pain when dancing, and pain when jumping.

Kids’ Anatomy of Growth Plates

During adolescence, growth plates near the end of bones around the knee are in the process of transitioning from soft cartilage to bone. One of these growth plates near the top of the tibia (shinbone) serves as an attachment site for tendons and is covered by a bony bump known as the “tibial tubercle”. The quadriceps muscles located in the upper thigh region are attached to this tibial tubercle. During some forms of physical activity, the quadriceps pull on the patellar (knee) tendon, in addition to pulling on the adjacent tibial tubercle. If the physical activity becomes very repetitive, pain and inflammation can occur around the tubercle, eventually resulting in a pronounced lump around the knee area.

Why Physical Therapy?

The good news is that surgery is rarely recommended for cases of Osgood-Schlatter disease, and left alone, most children will eventually outgrow the disease. Once a person’s growth spurt is over and they reach adulthood, any issues stemming from this issue will likely resolve without any residual effects. However, this doesn’t help young people who want to be engaged in sports activities throughout their teen years. Being forced to quit playing some of their favorite sports because of pain and discomfort is very discouraging for anyone. In some cases, teens may want to become skilled enough to obtain an athletic scholarship in order to help them eventually gain acceptance into the college of their choice. Without treatment, it is unlikely (and unwise) for these athletes to successfully try to “play through the pain”.

If you have a child who wants to remain active and engaged in their favorite activities, physical therapy can help make the difference between abandoning a sport altogether or being able to continue to play. A professional physical therapist can create a customized program of stretching and strengthening exercises based upon the child’s specific anatomy, as well as the physical activities in which they are currently involved.

 

A typical customized plan includes decreasing stress and tension on overworked areas such as the quadriceps muscles, along with strengthening other muscles such as the gluteal, and muscles in the core of the body. Enlisting the aid of these other muscles gives the overworked muscles a chance to rest and recover, while also building a well-rounded set of muscles that can help take the brunt of some of the more challenging movements in sports. Depending upon the type of sports the young individual engages in, a professional physical therapist can also provide expert advice on specific movements to facilitate the patient’s return to activity as quickly as possible.

Summary

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