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Anterior knee pain is a common complaint of young athletes participating in sports. As a teenager, most of the aches and pains disappear as fast as they show up. However, when the pain doesn’t go away it can be frustrating and scary to deal with as a parent. Osgood-Schlatters Disease (OSD) is one of the common ailments that cause pain in the front of knee particularly in teenage athletes ranging from 12-15 years old. Injuries at this age can be a challenge, as kids of that age have difficulty communicating their pain, understand their diagnoses, and can get frustrated with the missed time on the playing field.
Osgood-Schlatters also tends to linger and stay longer than any teenager would like. That’s when you decide to see a doctor. However, OSD is just common enough and not serious enough that some doctors might brush it off as unimportant. What’s a parent to do? Here’s a guide to help you and your growing teenager get through it and maintain the sanity of your household through the process.
What is Osgood-Schlatters Disease?
First, the word disease can be a little misleading. Osgood-Schlatters Disease is less of a disease and more of an overuse injury involving the patella tendon. OSD is most common during the adolescent growth spurt as the bones are maturing. The pull from repetitive movement such as jumping causes tension through the patella tendon on Tibial Tuberosity. This traction injury can cause inflammation, tenderness to the touch, and formation of a painful bony bump to form on the front of the shin.
Risk Factors for Osgood-Schlatters Disease?
The primary risk factors for Osgood-Schlatter disease are repetitive movements during a certain age range. Other risk factors include:
- Age – OSD is most common during puberty and large growth spurts. The typical range for boys is 12-15 and girls from age 10-13
- Gender – OSD occurs more frequently boys but the incidence is increasing in young girls as more young ladies are participating in sports
- Sports – Most commonly found in sports with high force production in the legs such as running, jumping, and cutting. Basketball, hockey, and soccer are the most common sports associated with OSD.
Top Tips for Patients To Help Recover from Osgood-Schlatter Disease
Create a Schedule
This might be the most important tip to consider. Recovering from OSD requires consistency and a schedule can help. Create a daily schedule to ice the tendon, to stretch the quadriceps, and to even perform self-massage can speed up recovery. Also, schedule some downtime to allow the knee adequate rest. Kids tend to have a really hard time understanding the importance of treating their injuries seriously. For good time management skills try writing out daily, weekly, and monthly recovery goals.
Take Active Time Off
OSD is an overuse injury from repetitive patellar tendon tension. If the young athlete continues to play and practice without adequate tendon rest it could re-injure the tendon. This can prolong the recovery timeline and cause more frustration. The tendon needs proper time to heal and this can be difficult during the middle of the season, especially for a teenager. Try to help them understand that active movement and activities such as walking and biking are good but they need to take a break from jumping, running, and sports. Figure out other ways they can be involved with the team while they heal as OSD can take up to 6-8 weeks to heal in severe cases.
For mild cases and athletes returning to their sport, a brace may help with pain and prevent a recurrence. A brace for Osgood-Schlatters changes the location of tension from the Tibial Tubercle to the brace. The tendon is allowed to heal with less tension but yet your athlete is still able to participate. This may also stop the progression of new cases of OSD before they become severe and help them get back to sports sooner.
Emphasize Proximal Hip Strengthening
The knee is a slave to the hip and ankle. The knee joint bends forwards and backward but the rotation of the knee is controlled from the joints above and below it. One of the best ways to stabilize the knee focuses on the lateral hip muscles through exercises such as the side-lying clamshell and the single-leg deadlift. The stronger the hip gets, the more stable the knee will become and it will be able to handle more stress. These exercises also won’t aggravate OSD, so they are safe to start at any time.
Talk about Expectations
Taking 4-6 weeks off during the middle of the season may seem like an eternity for a 13-year-old but it’s important to talk about expectations and timelines. The younger teens may not understand the importance of healing now to prevent future complications. They shouldn’t be running or jumping while at school. Take time to talk to them about how they feel about missing playing time. The young athlete may be seen apprehensive about losing their starting spot in the lineup or worry that they will be forgotten by their teammates. Feeling depressed about their injury is fairly common.
Prevent it with Cross-Training
One of the best ways to prevent OSD from returning or starting in the first place is through cross-training. Specializing in one sport has been shown to increase the injury rate in young athletes. The demands of participating in different sports change the repetitive trauma to the muscle, tendons, and ligaments. By playing multiple sports over the year it promotes well-rounded muscle development, better movement quality, and needed rest between seasons. Kids need to be well-rounded athletes before they can specialize.
Osgood-Schlatters can be a frustrating and scary injury to deal with as a parent. However, with a solid game plan, proper communication, and maintaining active rest, your young athlete will be back on the field in no time.
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