When some children stand, run or walk, their knees seem very close together (or even touch each other) and their ankles are further apart. This condition is called genu valgum, or knock knees.
In the first 12 to18 months of life, children often have some leg bowing. The legs straighten as the baby/toddler grows. By age three or four, it is common to see the child become knock-kneed but by age seven to 10, the legs have usually straightened.
For most children, knock knees is “physiologic” or part of their normal development. In some cases, the knock knees are due to trauma to the growth areas in the knee, a bone condition or a previous bone or joint infection.
Your physician will ask you about your child’s health, growth and development and examine their legs. If the genu valgum is only on one side, is very severe or if your child is very small for their age, your physician may want to take an x-ray of their legs.
For normal (physiologic) genu valgum, the treatment is generally observation. Special shoes, casting or bracing do not help. Physiologic genu valgum tends to resolve or get much better by age seven.
In cases of genu valgum that result from past injury or infection, your doctor may recommend surgery to realign the legs. Patients who are older than 10 who have persistent genu valgum and have pain with activities may be candidates for corrective surgery.
If your child ends up with a small amount of knock knees as an older child or adult, they should still be able to play sports and lead a normal life without pain.