Osgood Schlatters Disease: A guide to your child’s knee pain

Dion Kapnias
by Dion Kapnias

School is back, the weather is still beautiful for at least another month or two, and sport is back! Which means that kids are outside getting more exercise and getting back into their sports. (All parents of young kids and teenagers share a collective sigh of relief!!). 

Great news, right? 

Well yes, but …. the realist in me acknowledges that any rapid increase in exercise can actually lead to more injuries amongst kids and teenagers. 

One common injury that we see as a result of this sudden increase in exercise, particularly amongst kids and teenagers, is Osgood Schlatter’s Disease, or OSD for short. 



What is Osgood Schlatter’s Disease (OSD)? 


You might have heard the term “Osgood Schlatter’s” thrown around before and wondered what on earth it is. OSD is characterised by pain at the front of the knee, specifically at the tibial tuberosity (bony bump just below the kneecap). It commonly occurs in boys between the ages of 12-15, and girls between the ages 8-12. Activities that often aggravate OSD include running and jumping.


What are the signs and symptoms of Osgood Schlatter’s Disease? 


Patients with OSD will often have:

·  Pain when you press the tibial tuberosity (the bony bump just below the kneecap)
·  Pain that gets worse as activity increases, and gets worse over time
·  Pain when straightening the knee (e.g. kicking) over the bony bump below the kneecap
·  Tightness felt in the front of the thigh (quadriceps)


Sort of like your child’s tastes in food, kids’ bones are still immature. As a result, this often creates a mismatch between what activity their bones and muscles can tolerate. 

For example, when you sprint, the muscles of your quadriceps (muscles on top of your thigh) are anchored to and pull excessively on the bony bump below your kneecap (the tibial tuberosity). Too much pulling on this area can irritate and aggravate the growth plate, leading to pain and symptoms.


What causes Osgood Schlatter’s Disease? 


Not usually caused by any trauma, OSD commonly occurs amongst kids who are skeletally immature. i.e., when the bones are still growing and getting stronger. Those who get OSD often do a lot of moving, jumping, and high-speed activities like sprinting, especially repeatedly in sports like volleyball or footy. This is why we often characterise it as an ‘overuse’ injury, as it typically occurs when kids do too much activity, too soon, and aren’t strong or developed enough to cope with the exercise load that they’re placing on their bodies.

To help prevent this, it’s really important for kids to build up strength in their quadriceps, hamstrings and lower body generally so that they are better equipped to deal with the demands of their sport on their knees!


Will my child be more likely to have ongoing injuries and pains after having Osgood Schlatter’s Disease? 


Don’t worry, OSD doesn’t mean your child will continue to have problems as they get older, that they’re knees are unstable, or more likely to experience a fracture, or rupture of any tendons. It’s quite a common injury, with roughly 10% of kids likely to experience OSD in their life

Their knee is simply irritated and will settle down with good guidance and treatment from your physio.

That being said, it’s super important to see a physio sooner rather than later to get on the right track, as failure to do so will likely lead to a longer time on the sidelines and more nagging of mum and dad!


5 tips to help your child relieve knee pain caused by Osgood Schlatter’s Disease 


Here are 5 great ways to help treat OSD! (we’ve even put them in dot point form for if you’re like me and can’t be bothered clicking another link!)


1. Use a Foam roller: particularly of the calf and quadriceps. This will help to reduce feelings of tightness and relieve some of your child’s knee pain.

Check out a demonstration of how to use a foam roller to relieve knee pain caused by Osgood Schlatter’s Disease. 


2. Reduce their exercise & physical activity volume: Try reducing their overall exercise activity by 25%. E.g. reduce 4 training sessions to 3 per week. This is crucial to allow recovery and healing


3. Use Ice: icing your knee can help to reduce inflammation, ease pain and enhance recovery. If your child is still struggling with symptoms, try reduce their load by another 25%


4. Tape the knee: Taping the bony part of your child’s knee can help to offload some of the pressure, provide structural support, and overall help keep kids playing for longer.

Check out this video where we demonstrate how to tape your child’s knee for Osgood Schlatter’s Disease. 


5. Strengthen the knee: Try these wall sit exercises to help strengthen up your quads and knee. 

Video demonstration of the Wall Sit with dribbles, an exercise designed to strengthen the quadriceps in children suffering from knee pain due to Osgood Schlatter’s Disease. 



All these 5 recommendations can be completed at home. However, if you’re struggling to settle your child’s knee pain down and you think it might be OSD, please book in to see one of our physios and they’ll be able to get you on the right track.


In our next Blog we’ll explain another common overuse injury in kids and adolescents – Heel pain caused by Severs Disease. 


Dion is a Physiotherapist working at Pathways Physiotherapy. To make a booking to see Dion, or any of our other Physiotherapists CLICK HERE.