Growth plates refer to softer regions of a child’s bones where growth takes place. Growth plates are situated at each end of every bone and are also the softest and weakest parts of the skeletons; they may even be weaker than the tendons and ligaments surrounding them at times. Since growth plates are very delicate, growth plate fractures may result from the same type of damage that results in a joint sprain in adults.
Growth plate fractures usually require immediate medical treatment because damage can alter the growth of the affected bone. If not treated properly, the growth plate fracture may lead to a fractured bone, thus causing a shorter limb than the unaffected one, for example. Fortunately, with proper treatment, complications that may result from growth plate fractures can easily be avoided.
Signs and symptoms
Growth plate fractures are more likely to happen to the bones in the:
- Lower leg
Signs and symptoms of growth plate fractures usually include:
- Severe pain that remains persistent
- Disability (inability to move the affected region)
- Inability to bear weight or pressure on the injured area
When to seek medical attention
If you suspect that your child has a growth plate fracture, especially because pain does not allow movement or intensifies when pressure is applied, take your child to a doctor as soon as possible. Moreover, you must also make sure you have your child’s limbs evaluated particularly if you notice any malformation in the limbs or if your child is not participating in sports as he or she used to due to persistent pain or disability.
About 15 percent of fractures in children involve their growth plates. Growth plate fractures usually occur due to trauma to the limb or falls, and can therefore, occur in the following situations:
- Car accidents
- Competitive sports activities such as running, basketball, football, soccer, gymnastics and dancing
- Recreational sports activities such as skiing, skateboarding or biking
Growth plate fractures are also known to occur as a result of overuse injuries, such as from sports training.
Treatment for growth plate fractures depend on the severity of the injury. For mild or least serious fractures, a cast or splint can be used. More severe injuries, typically those that involve one part of the bone being separated from the shaft, surgical repair may be necessary.
For children with growth plate fractures, doctors may compare the injured limb to the unaffected one every three to six months after injuries, for two years or more. The number of follow-up visits depends on the severity of the fracture and will be continued till the bones have stopped growing.