Knee Pain in Young Athletes

Expert Q&A

Ice Pack on a Sprained Knee
Treatment for an injured knee starts with RICE. Photo by Wendy Shiao

Question. My 11-year-old daughter is very athletic and has been complaining of knee pain after basketball practices and games. I have been giving her a NSAID (ibuprofen) and having her rest afterward. Would it be wise to have her wear a knee band or sleeve while playing and practicing? Amy, New Minden, IL

Answer. In general, an ace wrap or knee brace wouldn't be harmful, but it doesn't address the underlying problem that is causing the pain.

RICE for Sports Injuries

For mild sports injuries, pediatricians often recommend RICE:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Most sprains or strains should get better in a few days of basic RICE therapy. If not, see your pediatrician for help.

Knee Pain in Young Athletes

Not surprisingly, many things can cause knee pain in young athletes.

Did your child sprain her knee?

Does she have Osgood Schlatters Disease, with a tender bump just below her knee cap?

Or parapatellar knee pain syndrome, with vague pain around her knee cap that is worse after many activities and gets better with rest.

If her knee also develops swelling and occasionally 'gives' or locks, then she could have osteochondritis dissecans as a cause for her knee pain.

Other conditions that can affect a child's knee can include patellar and quadriceps tendinitis, ACL injuries, a dislocated knee, and Sindig-Larsen-Johannson disease.

If this is an ongoing problem or is interfering with her activities, an evaluation by your pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine expert would also be a good idea.

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