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Adolescent Knee Pain – How You Can Help Your Child

Author: H. Royer Collins, M.D.

In addition to the normal bumps and bruises, some adolescents may experience pain in the knee, which affects their ability to play outside or be involved in school sports. As a parent, you want to help. But how?

Let’s start with a little background to help you understand one of the most common types of adolescent knee pain, Osgood-Schlatter Disease. (While OSD is one of the most common causes of knee pain, it is not the only cause.)

What is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

OSD isn’t actually a disease, but an overuse injury. Children with OSD experience inflammation of the tendon just below the kneecap, where it attaches to the shinbone. This typically only occurs in one knee.

What are the symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

  • Pain in the knee while exercising and sometimes while at rest

  • Pain that worsens during and after exercise

  • Swelling and tenderness between the front of the knee and shin bone

  • Tight muscles surrounding the knee (in the calf and thigh)

  • Compensatory limping

Why does it happen?

The precise cause of Osgood-Schlatter Disease is unknown. However, it tends to happen to active children during growth spurts (8 to 13 for girls and 10 to 15 for boys). Children who play sports that involve running and jumping are more likely to develop OSD. This leads many physicians to agree that physical stress can exacerbate symptoms.

How can I help my child?

Only the symptoms of this type of adolescent knee pain can be treated. If the pain is mild, then you may encourage your child to continue staying active and resting when the pain flares up. A few other tips for helping your child’s knee pain:

  • Ice the knee after activity to reduce pain.

  • Buy the proper protective knee gear for sports.

  • Ask your physician about using prescription anti-inflammatories to control severe pain.

  • Have your child wear cushioned, shock-absorbent insoles to reduce stress on the knee.

Should I be worried about Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

In most cases, probably not. This type of adolescent knee pain disappears in late teenage years once the bones have matured. Also, OSD rarely has long-lasting effects. However, I do strongly encourage parents to have their child evaluated by a medical professional if recurrent adolescent knee pain is an issue.

For more information about adolescent knee pain and treatment options, please contact Hedley Orthopaedic Institute at 602-553-3113.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.

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