Osgood-Schlatter disease (OSD) is commonly considered a condition of adolescence. However, in some cases, it can persist into adulthood. Here’s what you need to know about Osgood-Schlatter disease in adults.
What causes Osgood Schlatter Disease in adults?
Osgood-Schlatter disease is caused by repetitive strain on the patellar tendon, which attaches the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). This tendon becomes irritated and inflamed.
In children and teens, this is often due to a growth spurt that causes tightness in the quadriceps muscles. The tendon cannot keep up with the rapid bone growth.
In adults, OSD can occur due to:
- Sports that involve frequent jumping and landing (e.g. basketball, volleyball)
- Jobs that require frequent kneeling (e.g. construction, carpeting, landscaping)
- A prior injury that wasn’t properly rehabilitated
- Having Osgood Schlatters as a child
- Anatomical factors like flat feet, knock knees, or muscle imbalance/weakness
Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease in adults
The main symptom of OSD in adults is pain below the knee cap, where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibial tuberosity. This is often worse with activity.
Other symptoms may include:
- Swelling and tenderness below the knee
- A bony lump (ossicle) below the knee cap
- Stiffness in the knee joint
- Leg weakness
- Difficulty kneeling or squatting
Getting an Osgood-Schlatter diagnosis
Seek medical advice if you have unexplained knee pain that doesn’t improve with rest. Your doctor will examine your knee and may order imaging tests to confirm OSD or a different diagnosis.
OSD can be confused with other knee conditions like chondromalacia patellae or patellar tendonpoathy (often called patella tendonitis, runner’s knee, or jumper’s knee). An accurate diagnosis is important.
Treating Osgood-Schlatter Disease in adults
Ice and rest for Osgood Schlatters
As with most overuse injuries, initial treatment involves rest, and avoiding aggravating activities. However rest is only a short term way to relieve your pain, and returning to activity progressively is essential for proper rehabilitation.
This is why we created our program, as a targeted way for people to return safely and smoothly to pain-free activity.
Recent research has shown that routinely icing injuries may not be beneficial. Icing can temporarily reduce pain and swelling, but it does not promote long-term healing.
In fact, icing may delay recovery by suppressing the inflammatory response needed for the body to heal itself. For this reason, we do not recommend icing during our OSD program unless you are experiencing severe pain.
Specific stretches and strengthening exercises can help improve flexibility and support the knee joint. Your physical therapist can design a tailored rehab program.
Bracing and taping
Braces and taping techniques may be used to take pressure off the patellar tendon and improve tracking of the kneecap. We have written about bracing before.
Surgery to remove boney lump
Surgery is typically a last resort for Osgood-Schlatter disease and has mixed results. Procedures may involve:
- Removing bony ossicles
- Shaving down the tibial tuberosity
- Partially detaching and reattaching the patellar tendon
While surgery may remove irritated tissue, and reduce the size of your bump it does not address the root cause of OSD, which is most often muscular weakness and imbalance.
Surgical outcomes are unpredictable. Many patients still have anterior knee pain after surgery. There are also risks of infection, nerve damage, and delayed healing.
The recovery period post-surgery requires an extended break from sports and activity which can set you back even further. For these reasons, we recommend exhausting conservative treatment options before considering surgery.
The Core Advantage approach
Here at Core Advantage, we take a comprehensive approach to treating OSD in adults that focuses on:
- Carefully progressing load and activity levels
- Targeted strength training to activate the quadriceps and build up the legs
- Improving movement patterns and muscle balance
- Self-applied manual therapy techniques to improve flexibility
Our adult OSD online program includes everything you need to rehabilitate OSD and return to pain-free function.
Don’t let Osgood-Schlatter disease sideline you. With the right treatment approach, you can get back to an active lifestyle.