This is a common condition in which a child or adolescent (usually 9-14 years) complains of pain at the front of the knee joint just below the kneecap (at the tibial tubercle). It is more common in boys (but does occur in girls at a slightly younger age) and is caused by a ligament pulling repeatedly on a growing bone. It usually only affects one knee but can affect both.
The child will not describe an injury and usually complains of a dull ache which increases with activities such as sport. While this is a temporary condition it can last for more than a year. The pain is often intermittent (it comes and goes) and it often hurts to kneel on or touch the area.
Rest and avoidance of aggravating activities is the treatment of choice. This usually means not playing sport. This should be for a minimum of 6 weeks but may need to be longer. If your child continues to be active (particularly playing sport) it can take much longer to heal.
Simple pain killers can be used to relieve pain. If symptoms are severe then a splint to hold the knee straight is often applied for 4-6 weeks.
Once the pain has completely gone your child can slowly resume activities and work on the leg to regain strength.
The pain can recur and if it does the treatment needs to be restarted.
There are rarely any long term problems with this condition (except that there may be a permanent lump where the pain was located). Surgery is rarely required.