25 Jun Osgood-Schlatter in Female Athletes: No, You Can’t Stretch Your Knee
“Do you have any stretches for my knee?” – every young female athlete with knee pain.
As a performance training professional, I assume everyone is on the same page as me and understands that the knee is a joint and cannot be stretched.
However, I totally get that when a young girl feels pain in the knee, she wants to quickly resolve the issue, and she believes the tightness in the patellar tendon will be relieved with a magical stretch.
Sadly, I wish this were the case, but it isn’t.
With Osgood-Schlatter in growing girls, the solution is more multi-faceted.
It is a condition that affects girls ages 10-13 during their most rapid period of growth. Because the bones are growing much faster than the muscles and tendons, the quadriceps muscle becomes tight and the patellar tendon becomes inflamed. During this time, girls are also increasing in fat mass and fat free mass, so they are learning how to control their bodies with extra weight.
The quadriceps and patellar tendon become more aggravated the more jumping, cutting, running and changing of direction a female athlete does. In most cases, girls will experience the most pain after practices and games.
This isn’t an issue to be brushed under the rug. Even if the pain is small, go seek out a professional. Additionally, take inventory of when the pain is at its highest. If the pain is bad after practices and games, then cutting back is your best bet. A young female athlete will not fall behind. In fact, if she gets care immediately, she will not be out for as long as she would be if she waited and ignored the problem.
I’ve seen many ignore knee pain, and it took eons to recover from. Therefore, I’d rather see a girl bear the itty bitty discomfort of 4 weeks off to get better, than the bigger discomfort of waiting several months to years to get better.
Too, taking the conversation back to the beginning: a female athlete can’t stretch her knee. She can only strengthen the muscles that safeguard it from the high forces in her sport.A female athlete can't stretch her knee. She can only strengthen the muscles that safeguard it from the high forces in her sport. Click To Tweet
To summarize, here are solutions for Osgood-Schlatter:
- Cut back on playing load (even if 1 practice a week, or less minutes in the game)
- Focus on strengthening quadriceps, calves, glutes and hamstrings
- Improve recovery nutrition (protein for muscle recovery and Omega 3s to combat inflammation)
- Focus on nasal breathing and quality sleep to calm the nervous system to help with muscle tightness
Here are some strength and recovery exercises to get started on:
Quad Foam Roll
Please do not wait to take care of this issue.
Begin prioritizing strength training, load management, and recovery. Too often, I have seen girls in my decade of coaching wait too long, only to develop more pain in their knee, as well as compensations that impact their overall explosiveness and change of direction speed. It’s a lose-lose.
For more on specific sets and reps, as well as age specific programs, check out my ONLINE TRAINING SUBSCRIPTIONS HERE
I highly recommend my Performance Plan if you need it more individualized to work around knee pain and have weekly check-in calls
For more on training the youth female athlete, check out my guide book THE STRONG FEMALE ATHLETE HERE