What Happens When Your Child Breaks a Growth Plate?

No doubt, you do everything you can to protect your child from getting hurt. But accidents happen. Hearing that your child has injured a growth plate may cause your heart to skip a beat and make you wonder how it affects your child’s full growth potential.

Unfortunately, growth plates are susceptible to injury, but with prompt treatment the growth plate can heal without causing future problems.

At Urgently Ortho in Scottsdale, Arizona, we specialize in pediatric fractures and want you to know what happens when your child breaks a growth plate.

What is a growth plate?

Your child goes through many growth spurts throughout childhood, and the growth plate helps support bone growth and ultimately determines the length and shape of the bone. Growth plates are areas of soft tissue found at the end of your child’s long bones, including the bones in the fingers, arms, and legs.

Because the tissue is so soft, softer even than ligaments or tendons, growth plates are susceptible to injury. A simple fall that might normally result in a sprain could fracture a child’s growth plate. Your child can also fracture a growth plate from repeated stress on the bone when overtraining for a sport.

As many as 30% of childhood fractures are growth plate fractures. Due to the role growth plates play in your child’s development, and their ability to heal quickly, we need to evaluate and treat a growth plate fracture within 5-7 days of the injury. Without proper treatment, the bone may become deformed or not grow to its full potential.

Setting and healing

After an examination and X-ray we can determine if your child has a growth plate fracture and how best to treat it to prevent future complications. Specific treatment depends on many factors, including:

In most cases, your child’s growth plate can heal with a cast and rest. If the fracture is severe, however, we may need to perform surgery to insert screws, wires, or plates to hold the bones together to support proper healing before we put on a cast.

While your child’s bones heal much faster than yours, the amount of time it takes for your child to recover from a growth plate fracture varies, and the cast may need to remain on for several weeks.

Continued monitoring of the growth plate

You’re not done after the cast comes off. We need to monitor your child’s growth plate for at least a year to make sure all is well and it’s growing as it should. If your child fractured the growth plate on the thigh bone or shinbone, then we may need to continue to monitor your child until the growth plate has reached full maturity and formed into solid bone, which occurs during adolescence.

Children are prone to injury, but they’re also resilient. With the right treatment and care, your child’s growth plate fracture shouldn’t cause any long-term problems.

For management of your child’s growth plate fracture, call Urgently Ortho or request an appointment online to see one of our pediatric orthopedic specialists.

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