Youth Soccer Players: Growing Pains or Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Osgood-Schlatter disease occurs most often in children who participate in sports that involve running, jumping and swift changes of direction. John Gallucci, Jr., is the Medical Coordinator for Major League Soccer (MLS) and oversees the medical care of 600 professional soccer players and shares his wisdom on this painful youth soccer issue. Gallucci is a dynamic expert in injury prevention, rehabilitation, sports medicine, and athletic conditioning and the former Head Trainer of the New York Red Bulls.
Here are John Gallucci, Jr.’s injury prevention tips for Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease (OSD), one of the most common causes of knee pain in active soccer players – and a condition which is more prevalent in males between the ages of 10-16.
GROWING PAINS! This is one of those catch-all terms uttered by parents when their pre-teen or teen athletes start to complain of pain in their joints.
These words lead to one or many conversations involving statements like “just ice it,” “stretch and you will feel better” or “don’t worry, it will get better as you get older.” Although these statements have some truth to them …
Let’s make sure we — as parents and coaches — are doing all we can to keep our athletes healthy on and off the field during their growth spurt years.
When discussing growth spurts or growing pains in athletes that are involved in sports which require extensive running and jumping or quick changes of direction such as soccer, I believe it is important to bring up Osgood-Schlatter Disease, or OSD. OSD is one of the most common causes of adolescent knee pain and although recently has been seen in the female population, is still much more prevalent in the male population between the ages of 10-16.
This condition is characterized by inflammation of the area where the tendon from the kneecap attaches to the shinbone and is typically the diagnosis when pain and/ or a bump is felt at the very top of the shinbone.
This discomfort is due to the fast rate that the bones grow at during a growth spurt, leading to the much slower growing tendons and muscles to pull on the bones and cause irritation.
As a healthcare professional, I am a strong advocate for getting today’s youth involved in sports and other physical activities.
With that being said though, it should be noted that the physically active, adolescent male population experiences a high volume of this condition due to the added stressors placed on the body during running, jumping and cutting and as a result of overuse of the not fully evolved structures surrounding a joint.
This last statement was not meant to scare our youth away from playing sports but should be seen as an eye opener to learn how to prevent injury, treat the injury and rest appropriately.
A successful approach, when trying to prevent or treat OSD, should consist of three basic principles:
- Proper warm-up,
- Balanced work to rest ratio
- Healthy diet.
A proper warm-up of static and dynamic stretches for the lower body, specifically the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups, is a great way to ready the muscles, tendons and ligaments for the potentially damaging forces that will be placed on them during activity.
During a growth spurt — the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding a joint — lose some of their elasticity due to the rapidly growing bones pulling in all directions.
If you or the athlete are unsure of how to implement a proper warm-up consult with a healthcare professional such as a physical therapist or certified athletic trainer who specialize in these areas and will give be able to give proper guidance.
There are also plenty of programs out there, like the L.E.S.S. Program offered at JAG Physical Therapy and described in more detail in my book (Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Players, Parents, and Coaches), which teach athletes how to properly stretch and strengthen the lower extremity and will aid in injury prevention.
It is important for people of all ages to maintain a healthy, well-rounded diet but becomes especially important when dealing with a growing body.
A well-balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins along with drinking plenty of water will give the body and its structures, the nutrients it needs to keep the body functioning properly during activity and the resources it needs to repair following activity and recover following injury.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, let the active body rest when needed.
Doing “too much, too soon” is the leading cause of musculoskeletal injuries especially when coupled with no time to rest. After a strenuous workout session or a long season be sure to leave time in between the next session or sports season to let the body recover back to a healthy state. Asking the body to repetitively perform under an exhausted state is when injuries occur most often.
Remember to encourage your athlete’s to listen to their bodies and to speak up when they are hurting. Early intervention is the key to success.
Gallucci is a Sports Medicine consultant for professional athletes in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, and USA Wrestling. Gallucci, Jr. is also President, JAG Physical Therapy & JAG Pediatric Therapy.
Medical Disclaimer: All content found on the SoccerToday.com Website, including text, images, or any other formats were published for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding any injury or medical condition. The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.