Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition that causes knee pain in some children during their adolescent growth spurt.

Danny's Story

Danny's 12th birthday marked the beginning of soccer season, a four-inch growth spurt, and a lot of pain in his right knee. When Danny's coach asked him why he was limping, Danny told him that his knee hurt, especially when climbing stairs, kneeling, or jumping. His coach called his parents and suggested they take Danny to the doctor.

Danny's doctor examined the tender, swollen knee. When she gently pressed the area just below the kneecap, Danny grimaced in pain. The results from the rest of the examination were normal. Danny was diagnosed as having Osgood-Schlatter (OZ-good SHLAT-er) disease.

This diagnosis scared Danny at first, but quickly the doctor eased his mind by explaining that Osgood-Schlatter disease is a condition in adolescents that almost always goes away on its own. It was named for an American surgeon, Robert Bayley Osgood (1873–1956), and a Swiss surgeon, Carl Schlatter (1864–1934), which explains the long, serious-sounding name.

The x-ray of a 12-year-old boy with Osgood-Schlatter disease. The bump on the shin bone just below the knee (shown in purple) shows a partial detachment from the rest of the bone, resulting in pain and swelling.

The x-ray of a 12-year-old boy with Osgood-Schlatter disease. The bump on the shin bone just below the knee (shown in purple) shows a partial detachment from the rest of the bone, resulting in pain and swelling.
Warrick G./Science Source.

What Is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?

Osgood-Schlatter disease refers to pain that occurs at the bump on the shinbone, or tibia (TIB-e-a), just below the knee. At this spot, a tendon * from the muscles of the thigh attaches to the shin after passing over the kneecap. Sometimes, especially during the adolescent growth spurt, the place where the shinbone is actively growing partially detaches from the rest of the bone, resulting in pain and swelling. This problem most often occurs in children between the ages of 10 and 15, especially those who are active in sports, and it affects more boys than girls.

Osgood-Schlatter disease usually goes away after the growth spurt ends. To treat the symptoms, doctors suggest taking over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen * or acetaminophen * , stretching well before exercising, and cutting back on sports that require contraction of the quadriceps (KWOD-ri-seps) muscle of the thigh, such as squat thrusts or running. Some doctors put a cast on the leg to limit a child's activity. Continuing to play sports usually does not make the condition worse, but it can delay the healing process. In a few cases, the problem does not go away on its own because abnormal bony structures form or small pieces of bone become detached. In these cases, surgery may be required to remove the bone fragments.

Remember R-I-C-E

When treating pain from sprains, strains, or other limb-related conditions, it is helpful to remember the “RICE” treatment.

R = Rest the injury from the painful activity.

I = Ice the affected area for 20 minutes, three times a day.

C = Compress the painful area with an elastic bandage.

E = Elevate the leg.

See also Knee Injuries: Overview


Books and Articles

Charrette, Mark. “Appropriate Care for a Common Knee Condition: Osgood-Schlatter.” Dynamic Chiropractic 30, 12 (June 3, 2012). http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=55928 (accessed November 22, 2015).

Sarwarck, John, and Cynthia LaBella. (eds.). Pediatric Orthopaedics and Sport Injuries: A Quick Reference Guide, Second Edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014.

Sullivan, J. Andy. “Osgood-Schlatter Disease.” Medscape, July 15, 2014. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1993268-overview (accessed October 26, 2015).


MedlinePlus. “Osgood-Schlatter Disease.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001258.htm (accessed October 26, 2015).

Orthopaedic Surgery. “Osgood-Schlatter Disease.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopaedic-surgery/specialty-areas/sports-medicine/conditions-we-treat/osgood-schlatter-disease.html (accessed November 22, 2015).


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 9400 West Higgins Rd., Rosemont, IL 60018. Telephone: 847-823-7186. Website: http://www.aaos.org (accessed November 22, 2015).

American Academy of Pediatrics. 141 Northwest Point Blvd., Elk Grove Village, IL 60007. Telephone: 847-434-4000. Website: https://www.aap.org (accessed October 26, 2015).

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 1 AMS Circle, Bethesda, MD 20892. Toll-free: 877-226-4267. Website: http://www.niams.nih.gov (accessed October 26, 2015).

National Organization for Rare Disorders. 55 Kenosia Ave., Danbury, CT 06810. Telephone: 203-744-0100. Website: http://rarediseases.org (accessed November 16, 2015).

* tendon (TEN-don) is a fibrous cord of connective tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone or other structure.

* ibuprofen (eye-bew-PRO-fin) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to reduce fever and relieve pain or inflammation.

* acetaminophen (uh-see-the-MIH-noh-fen) is a medication commonly used to reduce fever and relieve pain.

Disclaimer:   This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

(MLA 8th Edition)