Osgood-Schlatter condition (formerly known as Osgood-Schlatter's disease) is a painful condition characterized by tiny, microfractures of the bony bump in the lower leg bone (tibia) where the ligament from the kneecap (patella) is inserted into the tibia. The bump is known as the tibial tubercle. It is a disorder of the early teens, especially during a growth spurt, more likely to affect young men than young women, especially athletes of either sex who are active in games requiring substantial running and/or jumping.
It is a common, transient, short-term disorder, also called an overuse condition, that usually requires only rest and restraint from further strenuous activity for a relatively short period of time before it heals itself.
Osgood-Schlatter condition is characterized by painful, inflamed, swelling at the site of the bump (tubercle) on the bone located between the knee and the ankle (tibia). Pressing on the site makes the pain worse, which eases off as the pressure is reduced. Symptoms are made worse by any exercise or activity that stretches the leg, even contracting the muscles of the thigh against resistance.
The condition affects one leg (unilateral) in about 60% to 75% of the cases. In other cases, it is bilateral (affecting both legs). Osgood-Schlatter condition usually heals itself (self-limiting). Long-term affects are uncommon although there have been some incidences of fractures of the tibia and joint discomfort years after the original diagnosis.
The exact cause of Osgood-Schlatter condition is unknown. There is one school of thought that believes the cause to be the result of many microfractures that are not noticeable but which affect the growth plate behind the bump. The other school of thought believes that the persistent stress of the thigh muscles (quadriceps) pulling on the ligaments at the bump affects the growth plate. Most of the athletes who are affected are young enough for the long bones still to be immature. The immaturity combined with the relentless irritation appears to set off the condition, hence the term an overuse condition.
Osgood-Schlatter condition occurs more frequently in early adolescent males by a ratio of about 3:1. Boys are usually between the ages of 11 and 13 at onset of the condition. Girls are usually a couple of years older at onset, between 13 and 15.
The diagnosis of Osgood-Schlatter's condition may be confirmed by a thorough clinical evaluation an a variety of specialized test particularly advanced imaging techniques. An x-ray examination may reveal a slight separation of the tibial tubercle with new bone formation beneath it.
Treatment of Osgood-Schlatter's condition consists of rest, decreasing activity, and possibly immobilizing the affected leg with a cast. On a few occasions surgery has been used to help some individuals with the condition.
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