Osteochondritis dissecans (oss-tee-oh-kon-DRITE-iss DISS-ih-kanz) is when a piece
and the attached
break down and become loose. The loose piece can break away completely
from the end of the bone.
Osteochondritis dissecans happens most often in the knee, elbow, or ankle. It usually
takes 3 months or longer to heal completely. If it heals completely, kids who have
it usually don't have any long-lasting problems.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Osteochondritis Dissecans?
Osteochondritis dissecans causes pain in the affected joint. Exercise usually makes
the pain worse.
If it's not treated, the condition can lead to pain, swelling, catching or locking
of the joint, and possibly arthritis.
What Causes Osteochondritis Dissecans?
Doctors aren't sure what causes osteochondritis dissecans. It may be from:
a loss of blood supply to the bone
repeated stress on the bone from sports or other activity
some other process
Because osteochondritis dissecans can run in families, there may be a genetic
Who Gets Osteochondritis Dissecans?
Most cases of osteochondritis dissecans are in kids and teens 10 to 20 years old.
Less often, adults get it, and they may have had it since they were young.
The condition usually happens in kids who are very active, such as those active
in sports like gymnastics, baseball, and soccer. It also happens in people whose bones
are not straight — for example, those with bow
legs or knock knees.
How Is Osteochondritis Dissecans Diagnosed?
To diagnose osteochondritis dissecans, health care providers:
Rest. At first, this usually means complete rest and no weight bearing at all.
Then, light daily life activities and weight bearing, as tolerated, can be introduced
slowly. A cast, splint, or brace might
be worn to keep the joint still.
Avoiding any motion that causes pain.
Taking time off from sports and other intense activities.
to fix a problem that is causing osteochondritis dissecans (such as bow legs or
For pain, kids can:
Put ice or a cold pack on the area every 1–2 hours for 15 minutes at a time. Put
a thin towel between the ice and the skin to protect it from the cold.
Take pain medicine as recommended by the doctor.
When Can Kids With Osteochondritis Dissecans Go Back to Sports?
Kids with osteochondritis dissecans usually need at least a few months off from
sports. Kids who had surgery will need more time to heal. Returning to sports too
soon can lead to long-term pain and joint problems.
Kids should only go back to sports if they:
do not have pain in the area
do not have any trouble doing everyday activities
have followed their doctor's recommendations for resting the joint and PT
have been cleared for sports by their doctor
How Can Parents Help?
Kids with osteochondritis dissecans heal best when they:
Go to all follow-up doctor visits.
Follow the recommendations for rest and PT.
Don't go back to sports until the doctor says it's OK.
After kids go back to sports, they should:
Use proper playing and safety techniques for each sport.
If playing baseball,
follow the pitching guidelines.
Vary the sports they play. That way, one joint does not get overused.
Stop playing right away if something hurts during training or a game. If the pain
continues, they need to get checked by a coach, trainer, or health care provider before
going back to sports.