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What is a Growth Plate and Why Does it Need Special Care?

What is a Growth Plate and Why Does it Need Special Care?

You hear a lot about body tissues like muscle and bone, but growth plates are a little more obscure. Comprised of soft yet firm cartilage, growth plates cap the ends of the long bones in your arms and legs. They’re responsible for your height increases, limb lengthening, and the strengthening of your bones as you age through childhood and adolescence. 

Kids and adolescents still have softer growth plates, but they’ve hardened into solid bone once you reach adulthood. Your physical growth and development are complete once this has happened. 

Due to their softer material, growth plates are more prone to injuries than solid bone, which places kids and adolescents at a higher risk for fracture injuries in places like the ankle and elbow. Board-certified orthopedic specialist David Dickerson, MD, and registered nurse Shawn Denning, DNP, can identify and treat your child’s growth plate injuries and help your child avoid them in the future at Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Wall Township, Toms River, and Shrewsbury, New Jersey. 

Growth plate fractures – a concern among youth

Before your child or adolescent is done growing, it’s possible they’ll experience a growth plate fracture. In a car accident, fall, or contact sport where an adult would only experience a sprain or strain, a child might experience a growth plate fracture instead since their growth plates are softer than solid bone. 

Be aware of the severe complications

While many growth plate fractures heal seamlessly and don’t affect a child’s growth, some lead to lasting complications including stunted bone growth or limb deformities. Younger children are more at risk of bone growth complications stemming from growth plate fractures, but any youth with an open growth plate can sustain lasting complications if the initial injury is severe enough. 

The good news is that the majority of growth plate injuries heal without complication, though knee injuries are the most likely to lead to permanent damage. 

Preventing growth plate injuries

Growth plate injuries are becoming more common among growing youth as an increasing number of kids participate in sports. Additionally, kids are more likely to train for sports year-round, start sports early, and lack rest days between activities. 

Growth plate fractures are also more common in boys than in girls, primarily because girls mature faster and their growth plates close earlier. 

To help your child avoid growth plate injuries and long-term complications from them, our team encourages your child to:

Some growth plate injuries are less predictable and not as easy to prevent. Any time your child sustains an injury, early intervention and treatment are critical for minimizing the risk of lasting complications. 

Discover more about bone growth and development today

You and your children can benefit from learning about growth plates, growth plate injuries, and prevention. Call Performance Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine or schedule an appointment online for more information today.

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