Whilst young footballers face largely the same issues faced by adult players, there are a few types of injury that are specific to younger players, most commonly during adolescence. We call these ‘growth-related injuries’ - one of the most common being Osgood-Schlatter Disease (OSD). We will discuss this in more detail in this article.
What is a growth-related injury?
Growth plates are located all over the body and are at the end of a bone where muscles/tendons attach. They are one of the weak links in the body and are prone to injury from direct trauma or repetitive stress. Growth-related injuries, known as “apophysitis”, simply means inflammation of a growth plate and will develop because of chronic traction of a tendon at its insertion. Usually this traction is caused by growth spurts and/or repetitive movements from the demands of football.
What is Osgood-Schlatter Disease?
OSD is characterized by pain at the front of the knee where the patellar tendon inserts onto the tibial tuberosity (bony point at the front of the shin).
Who does OSD affect and what are the risk factors?
It generally occurs in boys between the age of 10-15 and in boys between the age of 8-14 in girls. It is the most prevalent injury complaint in these age groups in academy football. The prevalence is much higher in those who participate in sport compared to those who do not. The development of this disease is highly associated with growth spurts during adolescence, and is more common in sports that require lots of running, jumping and kicking - football is a prime example. An increase in training load may incur an increase in these actions so this is also something to be aware of.
What are the symptoms of OSD?
There will not be a specific mechanism of injury before the symptoms are noticed. Outlined are a few of the key symptoms of OSD:
Tenderness at the tibial tuberosity (bony point at the front of the shin)
Pain at this point that get worse when participating in physical activity
Sometimes a bony protuberance at the front of the shin
There is often tightness and soreness in the quad muscles at the front of the thigh on the affected knee(s)
What can we do to manage OSD?
Every young player will have different needs and therefore will need a different management strategy for this condition, but here are the main points for how we manage a player presenting with OSD:
Activity modification - this means avoiding aggravating activities guided by the levels of pain. Essentially, players can train and play as much as their pain allows but mustn't continue to play football if their symptoms are getting worse. Activity can be modified by reducing the frequency, intensity or duration of football sessions.
Ice - ice is great for relieving pain at the front of the knee after activity and throughout the day. It should be applied for 10-15 minutes at a time
Stretching and strengthening - Gentle stretching of the quads and hamstrings can be a useful adjunct for OSD. Strengthening exercises for the quads and hamstrings should start off light and then can be progressed according to the symptoms experienced by the player.
Here at SV Sports Therapy, we can help young footballers and athletes to deal with growth-related injuries by assessing their individual needs, using a variety of treatment methods and providing bespoke rehabilitation and management plans to get them safely back onto the pitch pain-free.
Did you know that alongside SV Sports Therapy, Emily works alongside the academy at Watford Football Club, providing pitch-side first aid, injury assessment and injury rehabilitation to players aged 9-16? She knows her stuff!
Read more here:
She would love to serve you!