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Common Orthopedic Problems in Teenagers

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Common Orthopedic Problems in Teenagers

Although teens are typically healthy, adolescence is a time when orthopedic problems may develop. Growth spurts can place extra stress on tendons and muscles, increasing the risk of some injuries. Conditions such as scoliosis may become apparent. Sports injuries are also fairly common among high school athletes of both sexes, although teen boys and girls may suffer different types of injuries.


Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, occurs when the spine curves rather than growing straight. It can be congenital or the result of conditions such as cerebral palsy. Adolescent scoliosis usually appears between the age of 10 and 18 years and is more likely to affect girls. A brace may be used to help the spine grow normally, although in severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

Osgood-Schlatter Disease

Osgood-Schlatter Disease results from overuse of the knee during the accelerated growth period of adolescence. Teens between the ages of 10 and 15 who play sports (such as football and basketball) or participate in gymnastics or ballet are most likely to develop this condition, which causes pain and swelling of the knee. Conservative therapy, such as limiting activity, using ice and compression bandages, may help resolve the condition. Physical therapy can help to stretch and strengthen muscles.

Slipped Capital Epiphysis

A slipped capital epiphysis occurs when the head, or ball, of the hip joint slips off the thigh bone. This condition can be quite painful and may cause the hip to become very stiff and hard to move. About half the cases involve both hips. Obesity increases the risk. Boys between the ages of 10 and 16 years are more likely to develop this condition, and African American teens are at higher risk than other groups. Surgery is often necessary, followed by physical therapy to strengthen muscles and promote correct alignment.

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are the most common of all sport-related injuries in both teen boys and girls. Sports that require jumping, pivoting, quick stops and starts, or in which there is a risk of side impact to the knee are most likely to be associated with knee injuries. Basketball, soccer, volleyball, gymnastics and football are all hard on the knee of a growing teenager. Sports like running may cause overuse injuries of the knee. Although both boys and girls may incur knee injuries, girls tend to be more severely injured in similar situations, and to miss more school. Treatment for a knee injury depends on the problem and its severity. Sometimes conservative care with rest and physical therapy is sufficient, while in others, surgery is required.