Growth Plate Fractures in Children


Growth Plate Fractures in Children

Because your child’s bones are still growing, they are particularly vulnerable to a type of fracture known as a growth plate fracture. The growth plates are cartilage like structures located at the ends of the bones and they are the very last part of the bone to harden as your child finishes growing.

The growth plate is extremely important, as it helps to determine how long the bone will ultimately be, as well as its shape. Naturally, fractures of the growth plate need prompt and careful attention to be certain of a good outcome. This type of fracture is considered a traumatic injury. Without proper treatment your child could be left with a bone that is shortened compared to the other side of his body (as in unequal leg length) or even a bone that is misshapen.

Anatomy and Description

The long bones of the legs and arms, as well as the bones of the fingers all have growth plates at each end. These ends are where the bone growth occurs and they will harden (or ossify) when your child’s growth is complete.

Most growth plate fractures are classified according to a system known as the Salter-Harris system into Types I through V, depending on where the fracture is located and which parts of the bone and growth plate are involved.

Causes of Growth Plate Fractures

Although a growth plate fracture can occur over time when the bone is put under repetitive stress, as in overtraining for athletic competition, most occur from falls or accidents, including car accidents. Competitive sports such as gymnastics, football and basketball account for a third of all growth plate fractures.

Nearly 20% of these fractures happen while children are participating in recreational activities such as skiing, skateboarding and biking. Interestingly, twice as many growth plate fractures happen with boys than with girls, as girls finish growing sooner than boys.


Your child may have a growth plate fracture if he has the inability to move the limb or can’t tolerate any pressure to the area. The limb may appear swollen or bruised or may be visibly deformed.

Exam and Treatment

Your child needs to be seen quickly, ideally immediately but definitely within 5 to 7 days, before the bones begin to heal. X-rays will be ordered to check the condition of the growth plate. Sometimes more detail is required and in these cases, an MRI or CT scan may need to be ordered so your doctor can see the area more clearly.

There are two types of treatment, surgical and non-surgical. If the fragments of bone are not out of place, these fractures can often be treated by immobilizing them with a cast. If the bones are out of place or the fracture is unstable, surgery is usually required. The bones are first repositioned and then are fixed in place with pins, screws, wires or metal plates.

Prognosis and Long Term Outcome

Complications are rare and your child’s fracture will likely heal quickly, but still needs to be carefully watched to be sure the growth plate is functioning normally. Follow up visits may be scheduled for up to a year after the fracture or in the case of a complicated fracture to a long bone in the arm or leg, until your child’s skeleton has reached maturity.

Sacramento Bone Fracture Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Broken Bone Lawyer. A broken bone is a medical injury. If you, or someone you care about has suffered a broken bone in an accident, call me at (916) 921-6400 for friendly, free advice. Some may prefer calling me toll-free number at (800) 404-5400.

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