Growth Plate – an Extra Big Plate?


No, a growth plate has nothing to do with eating. It does have to do with the way that children’s bones grow.
How do children’s bones grow?
Children’s bones do not grow from the middle out. Okay, I would have thought that they did. Once again, I would have been wrong. Children’s long bones actually grow from growth plates that are located near the end of bones.  These areas are the parts of the bone where the tissue grows. The growth plates determine the length and shape of the bones.
Growth plates are the weakest areas of a child’s skeleton. They can be weaker than the tendons and ligaments.  An injury in an adult that could lead to a sprain can be a growth plate injury in a child.
Growth plates close in later adolescence. In girls, the growth plate will close somewhere around the age of 13 -15 while in boys they won’t close until 15 -17.  Because of the difference in growth plate closing ages between boys and girls, boys suffer from more growth plate injuries than girls.
How can you damage a growth plate?
There are several ways. The most frequent cause of growth plate injuries is falling or twisting. These frequently happen in contact sports like football, basketball, or in sports that involve speed like skiing, skateboarding or biking. Growth plates can also be damaged from repetitive motion. An example of repetitive movements could be a gymnast that keeps trying to perfect a move or a pitcher that keeps working on his pitches.
Exposure to extreme cold can also damage growth plates. Frostbite in children can result in damage to the growth plate in the finger and cause the child to have short stubby fingers or premature degenerative arthritis.
How do you know if a growth plate is damaged?
If you child cannot participate in a sport because it hurts to play or it hurts to walk or run then they may have damaged their growth plate. If they are experiencing pain in a limb, they should be checked.  If you can see that the limb looks different, you should have them checked.
The doctor will most likely start with a physical exam of the limb. The doctor will ask questions and apply some pressure to the limb to see how it feels. Then the doctor will most likely order an x-ray to check the limb. X-rays can be inconclusive because they really check the hard calcium parts of bones but the doctor will be able to see some changes to the area. The doctor may feel that there needs to be further testing done. A CT scan or MRI could be ordered to get a better look at the limb.
What if it is a growth plate injury?
In most cases, when the limb is immobilized and keep weight is kept off the limb, the growth plate will heal.  When the injury is more severe and the bone is displaced, a procedure called a reductionwill have to be done to put the bone in place and then it will be immobilized. This procedure is done after the child is given some medicine to lessen the pain.
In most cases, there are no long term effects from a growth plate injury.  Occasionally, the bone can stop growing and end up shorter than the bone in the other limb. If only part of the growth plate is affected, if could be that the limb will become crooked because part of the growth plate continues to grow. But in most cases there is no long term damage.
 Your Pal,
Foot Blogger Chick
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