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Kids Knee Pain

I'm sure you're just as glad as we are that everything is getting back to normal slowly but surely with the ease of Covid restrictions! With the return of sports, the clinic has been really busy with sports related injuries. Many of us went from doing very little during lockdown to trying to get back on track with normal training, which means lots of new aches and pains.

Kids and teenagers are also returning to their football, basketball, hurling, running or whatever they enjoy. In this article I am going to discuss one of the most common knee pain conditions we see in the clinic. That is Osgood Schlatter's.

What is it?

Osgood Schlatter’s is a common condition in growing young children that refers to the irritation of a growth plate at the knee. The condition typically occurs in active teens from the ages of 10 to 14 or during their growth spurt. To understand what is going on and why, we need to look at the anatomy of the joint.

Children have growth plates called apophyses where muscles and tendons attach. The patellar tendon of the knee connects the top of the shin bone to the kneecap which in turn connects to the quadriceps muscles (the front thigh muscles). The growth plate is attached to the shin bone by cartilage and is subject to stress from overuse if the quadriceps muscles are either tight or weak or both. If this is the case, repetitive 'pulling' from the quadriceps when running or jumping can cause the area around the front of the knee to become sore and inflamed.

What are the symptoms? Children most commonly complain of pain just below the knee on the top of the shin bone. This can often be accompanied by a bump on the bone which is often tender to touch. The pain is usually worse with running and jumping activities. Climbing and descending a stairs can also be painful. The pain usually dissipates with rest only to return when sport or physical activities resume.

How can we reduce the pain? We need to understand what is happening. Skeletal bone growth rate has overtaken the rate at which muscles can keep up. This means certain muscles can become weaker and tighter as the child grows. Think of the muscles not being able to stretch enough. As the growth spurt ceases the muscle tends to catch up and the pain resolves but there are plenty of ways to help your child relieve the pain as they are going through this period in their lives. Firstly, it is important to ice the area post physical activity,10-15 to minutes will generally suffice. Secondly, in severe cases the child may have to reduce or modify the type of activities they are taking part in. Thirdly, a stretching and strengthening program specific to the individual post a thorough assessment will greatly help to reduce the pain. This is a very common problem associated with children so if you know or are involved with kids that are struggling with knee pain show this to their parents. A lot can be done to resolve it. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me regarding any injury you may have.

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