Growth Plate Injuries | | Loyola Medicine

Growth Plate Injuries

Overview and Facts about Growth Plate Injuries

Growth plate injuries affect the area of growing tissue near the ends of the bones in children and adolescents. Growth plates determine the final length of bones and shape they take in adulthood. As children mature, these growth plates eventually turn into bone.

Growth plate fractures represent approximately 15 percent of all childhood fractures. Injuries tend to occur in the arms and legs, and can cause growth deformities in children and teens when not treated properly.

Signs and Symptoms of Growth Plate Injuries

Common signs of growth plate injuries include:

  • Persistent pain after a sudden injury such as a fall
  • Pain, swelling, or tenderness at the injury site
  • Persistent pain as a result of overuse
  • Difficulty moving a limb because of pain
  • A visible deformity at the site of the injury

Causes and Risk Factors of Growth Plate Injuries

The main cause of growth plate injuries are due to physical trauma, which might come from a fall, blow to a limb, or car accident. They are commonly seen in children and teens who participate in competitive sports, such as football, gymnastics, or running; also recreational activities like skiing, dancing and skateboarding can result in this kind of injury. Boys tend to experience more fractures than girls, because it takes longer for their growth plates to mature into solid bone.

Tests and Diagnosis of Growth Plate Injuries

A physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal injuries in children and young adults can diagnose a growth plate injury. X-rays help doctors determine the cause of symptoms. Because the plate is not solid bone, however, it appears as a space on an x-ray towards the end of the bone. In rare cases, a physician may need to compare the differences between an x-ray image of the injured limb and an image of the healthy limb.

Advanced imaging tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, are rarely – if ever – needed.

Treatment and Care for Growth Plate Injuries

Depending on the severity of the injury, a doctor might recommend immobilization, reduction of the fracture or surgery. Immobilization involves placing a cast on the involved area for a few weeks to give the area time to heal. Reduction of the broken bone or surgery might be needed in cases of severe growth plate fractures which are displaced. Casts are often needed even after surgery.