How Might Growth Plate Injuries Affect My Child's Bone Growth?Sep 10, 2020
Written by Brian Cheah, PT, DPT
Team sports may be on hold for the time being, but it's never too early to get educated about your child's safety. Sports can be a great way to build a child's confidence, gross motor skills, and overall health, but there are always risks involved. One of which are growth plate injuries.
What are Growth Plates?
As their name suggests, growth plates are the areas of active, new bone growth near the ends of bones. They’re made up of cartilage, which is a rubbery, flexible material. (Like what your nose and ears are made up of!)
When kids are done growing, the growth plates harden into solid bone. This happens in girls around ages 12-15 and in boys around 14-17. The vast majority of growth occurs during these ages, which is why potential injuries to growth plates are so important to prevent.
Image from https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/growth-plate-fractures
Image from https://www.coastlineortho.com/growth-plate-fracture-coastline-orthopaedic-associates.html
Image from https://www.mountnittany.org/articles/healthsheets/36510
Causes of Growth Plate Injuries
Growth plates are structurally weaker than the rest of the bone. Most of the time, growth plate injuries happen from falling, a collision, or forceful twisting. Children who play contact sports, fast-moving sports, or activities that require repetitive training are more likely to cause injury to growth plates. Growth plates may also be damaged due to overuse. When a limb becomes stressed in some way, it breaks wherever it is weakest. Cartilage is weaker than bone, so growth plates are more susceptible to injury.
How Can I Tell if My Child Has A Growth Plate Injury?
Signs and symptoms of a growth plate injury are the same as those for a broken bone. This may include: inability to put weight and pressure on the limb, pain and discomfort, inability to move limb, and tenderness in a single location.
Will Growth Plate Fractures Affect My Child’s Bone Growth?
Most growth plate fractures heal and will not affect future bone growth. However, sometimes the fracture can cause problems later on. For example, a fracture may actually stimulate growth so that the injured bone ends up longer than its opposite, uninjured limb. If this occurs, you will need to have it examined by a medical professional.
How Can I Help My Child Avoid Growth Plate Injuries?
To some extent, growth plate injuries are just a risk of being young and playing sports. However, there are some things young athletes can do to minimize the risk.
Especially during growth spurts, it is important to maintain good muscle flexibility. A stretching routine will help muscles loosen up and adapt to the growing bone. Also, it is very important to have good form during activities such as strength training. Incorrect posture and poor form during activities can increase risk for growth plate injuries. Lastly, overuse of a limb may result in microdamage to growth plates making it more susceptible to injury.
How can Evergreen Physical Therapy Help?
- Identifying areas that need increased flexibility
- Knowledge of proper rest and recovery
- Identifying movement faults during activities
Brian Cheah is a Doctor of Physical Therapy. He first became interested in physical therapy because of his own rehab following a serious sports injury. Sports have always been an integral part of his life. Growing up, he loved playing basketball and football. Although his injury caused a setback to his sports career, he walked away from the experience with a new love for the human body and its ability to heal and grow. At Evergreen he specializes in working with sports, orthopedic, and pediatric patients.
Request an appointment with Brian today!
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