Growth plates are the softer parts of a child’s bones, where growth occurs. Located at each end of a bone, they regulate and determine the length and shape of the mature bone. They are the weakest link in a child’s developing skeleton – sometimes even weaker than surrounding ligaments and tendons. Because they are so fragile, an injury that would result in a minor joint sprain for an adult can cause a growth plate fracture in a child.
Growth plate injuries typically occur when a child has a fall, a twisting injury or other traumatic event. Monkey bars are a common source of injury. Symptoms include severe pain that doesn’t go away and an inability to move, or put weight on, the affected area.
When kids get injured, it's important to have them evaluated, no matter how minor the symptoms. Many wrist and hand fractures don't hurt and don't swell too much, but clinical evaluation and x-rays will help direct the correct treatment. Frequently, the growth plates are injured, and prompt treatment helps prevent long-term consequences. Have fun and be safe with sports and on the playground, but come in to see us if a mishap occurs!
Read more about growth plate injuries in an article in the fall issue of Commonwealth Orthopaedics.
Daniel Thompson, MD, practices in our Alexandria and Springfield offices.