Finally, you have put in the work, built your strength and your knees are feeling the best they ever have.
It’s time to return to sport.
This moment is a key fork in the road:
Down one path you return to sport smoothly and gradually, never to suffer from Osgood pain again.
On the other path is a dive straight back into full sport and training, straight back to full sporting loads the minute your knees are pain free. Only a few short weeks later your knees blow up again and the Osgood returns, possibly worse than last time.
Sweet, pain free victory. Or a crushing return to square one.
Getting the balance right in the first few weeks as you return to sport is crucial, it takes time for the body to develop the specific fitness it needs to keep up with high intensity sprinting, jumping and agility. While you might be pain-free and stronger than they have ever been, it takes patience and a little planning to successfully return to sports.
And most importantly: Stay returned
There is no exact answer to how to do this reload as it varies by sport, age, experience level, and individual context. But our most important piece of advise would be to be more conservative than you might first think. Aiming to do a little more each week than the one before and adjusting as you go.
Ramping back smoothly.
The key to getting back to sport (and staying back) is all about paying attention to how much activity you do, how intense it is and how much it changes over the weeks. Collectively this is known as load management and it is a super important concept in sports science, especially at the professional level.
The basic idea underpinning load management is that the nervous system, muscles, bones, joints and tendons in our body adapt to the amount and type of training we do. Lift weights and we get strong, practice jumping and we become more springy, do lots of gymnastics and we improve our balance and flexibility, do nothing and sit on the couch and these qualities will gradually fade, this is known as detraining.
Our bodies can only adapt so fast though, we have an upper limit to the amount of training we can do, especially high intensity training like sprinting, jumping and team sports.
If we push our bodies too hard, we can create what is called a stress response, stress responses could be as minor as fatigue that lasts a few days (say after a big tournament) or as serious as a stress fracture, shin splints, and tendon based injuries like jumpers knee or Osgood Schlatters.
Luckily, you don't need to turn pro, or hire your own personal sports scientist to apply some load management principles in your own training and avoid these negative outcomes. Here are a few tips to help you better manage your training.
No sudden changes to your routine
Our bodies love consistent training loads. Not too high, not too low, and definitely not changing erratically each month.
Let's take an example, say you typically train and play your sport five times a week, for a total of eight hours this is your baseline training stress. If this is working well for you (no injuries, fit and healthy), maintaining around eight hours split over five sessions is an optimal training load for you.
You might gradually increase this, or drop it back by a little bit over the holidays, but avoid big spikes (of 11+ hours), or weeks of complete rest (three hours or less) to maintain consistency.
If you are currently struggling with Osgood, maybe you need to dial back your current training to find an amount you can tollerate that allows your knees to recover.
No new or random activities
If you are struggling with Osgood, starting a new type of training activity is a very bad idea! Cycling, swimming, skiing and many other forms of cross training are totally fine for healthy athletes to experiment with, but if you have never done these, and are currently suffering from Osgood Schlatters starting a new activity is unlikely to have a positive effect.
Osgood needs specific, non-impact exercises, strengthening and mobilising to alleviate and rehabilitate your knee pain. Don't panic if your fitness is getting a bit worse, there is no point maintaining your fitness levels if you can't use it because of your knee pain anyway!
Add intensity last
High intensity activities like sprinting, agility, jumping and landing are usually the most intense activities for your Osgood Schlatters to deal with. Adding these last as you return to sport and full competition is the best way to go, starting with small doses or easy efforts then gradually dialling up the intensity and volume slowly over a number of weeks will give your knees the best chance to re-adapt to these activities without flaring up your knee pain
Building the perfect Osgood plan
If you need support and guidance in treating your Osgood Schlatters, we have developed a specific program for this that you can do online wherever you live.
Throughout the seven week Osgood training program we provide a progressive training plan to treat and rehabilitate your Osgood knee pain while providing you with a plan of attack so you can map out a structured return to sport and get back to full fitness without a return of your knee pain.