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Growth Plate Fractures: Common Child Sports Injury
Growth plate fractures are a common childhood injury that often occurs while playing sports or during outdoor play. Growth plates which are areas of cartilage near the ends of bones are vulnerable to fractures in growing toddlers through teenage years as the last section of a child’s bones to harden as they age into adulthood. The growth plate is the weakest section of a growing bone.
Growth Plate Fractures Statistics
• While childhood fractures can occur to any bone, up to 30% of all fractures in children are growth plate fractures
• One-third of these fractures happen during participation in competitive sports such as football, basketball, gymnastics, or track-and-field
• These type of fractures happen twice as often in boys, with girls typically finishing growth earlier than boys.
• Approximately 20% of all growth plate injuries occur during play activities such as biking, skateboarding, skiing, or sledding
• Many injuries reported happen with a fall while running or playing on playground equipment or furniture
• About 50% of all growth plate fractures diagnosed are at lower forearm at the wrist (radius bone)
• Injuries to the softer cartilage of growing bones also frequently occur in the lower leg (tibia and fibula), upper leg (femur), ankle, foot, or hip bone
• Growth plate fractures can be from direct trauma, repetitive training, over-use, or even from a medical issue such as a bone infection
• Growth plate injuries at the knee are at greatest risk of complications
• Incidence peaks in adolescence with greatest occurrence among 14-16 year old boys, 11-13 year old girls
Growth Plate Health Importance
The growth plate helps to determine the future length and shape of the maturing bone. Untreated fractures may result in arrested normal bone growth, in an arm or leg that is crooked, shorter, or which becomes painful from the development of arthritis or improper alignment from the structural changes.
Growth Plate Fracture Evaluation
Since a child’s bones heal quickly, a possible growth plate fracture assessment by a pediatric orthopedic physician is critical within 5 to 7 days from the injury to provide the proper treatment before healing begins. With accurate diagnosis and treatment, most growth plate injuries heal without complications - if left untreated however, permanent damage can impact the proper growth of the involved limb.
Growth Plate Fracture Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of an injury to the growth plate are generally the same as for a broken bone, including pain, discomfort, and inability to move the arm or leg, inability to put weight or pressure on the limb. Symptoms may be from an acute injury or from over-use. If a bone injury is suspected, immediate care is recommended where a diagnosis can be made and treatment plan established.
Growth Plate Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon
If your child has a suspected growth plate injury call the pediatric orthopedic specialists at Pediatric Orthopaedic Associates for a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan geared to your child's age, severity of injury, and musculo-skeletal health.