The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

More than Just Growing Pains: Examining Growth Plate Injuries in Children

Posted by on Monday, June 16th, 2014


When it comes to active children, no matter how much effort is put into making sure they are protected, there is always that fear that an injury will occur somehow. A bone fracture is every parent’s worst nightmare. Kids are especially at risk for growth plate injuries at the site of developing cartilage. About 15 to 30% of all childhood fractures involve the growth plate. When disturbed, these crucial growth plates can dictate the length, shape, and direction of the mature bone growth.

The good news is that serious side effects, like growth deformity, are rare, occurring in one to ten percent of all growth plate injuries. Also, children’s bones heal faster than adult’s bones, so the fracture will not need to remain in a cast as long. With prompt and correct treatment from a New York sports medicine doctor, your youngster should not suffer any long-term effects from a childhood fracture.

little league pitcher
Little League pitchers are especially vulnerable to growth plate injuries.
Image Source: Flickr user Brian Sims

Who Is at Risk for a Growth Plate Injury?

Any child can be at risk for a growth plate injury, but according to the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

– Adolescents between the ages of 14 and 16 are at particularly high risk.

– Boys are twice as likely as girls to suffer a growth plate injury.

– A third of all growth plate injuries take place during competitive sport matches for football, basketball, or gymnastics.

– Another 20% of injuries occur participating in recreational activities like sledding, skiing, skateboarding, or biking.

An active young boy explains what it was like having a growth plate injury in his knee:

What Causes Growth Plate Injuries?

Approximately half of all growth plate injuries occur in the lower end of the outer bone of the forearm (radius) at the wrist. These injuries also occur frequently in the lower bones of the leg (tibia and fibula). They can also occur in the upper leg bone (femur) or in the ankle, foot, or hip bone.

Usually, kids injure their growth plates through an accidental fall while running or jumping around. Little League pitchers, uneven bar gymnasts, long distance runners, and football players may be at increased risk, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

We’ve also seen growth plate injuries due to:

– Physical abuse

– Frostbite

– Steroid use

– Exposure to radiation cancer therapy

– Bone infections, and

– Metabolic disorders affecting hormone or kidney function.

NY sports medicine doctors are trained to help your child recover quickly and effectively.

classify growth plate injury
Growth plate injuries include fractures of all types.

How Are Growth Plate Fractures Diagnosed & Treated in NY?

The team of health care providers at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine will use ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan to assess your child’s condition. As Dr. Dana Johnson told The Wisconsin State Journal, it can be challenging to know if a child has a fracture without these diagnostic tests, but you may notice subtle signs that your child is limping or refuses to walk. Keep in mind that some kids are still able to walk on a fracture, so diagnostic tests are the best way to know for sure.

Initially, most patients will have their injury immobilized using a fiberglass or plaster cast, removable splint, or walking boot for about six weeks. From there, at least two weeks’ worth of physical therapy exercises will ensure that full range of motion is maintained. Sometimes it takes up to a year to find that growth plate damage has occurred, which is why it’s crucial to have a medical practitioner you can trust monitoring your child’s recovery. In rare instances, surgical intervention may be needed to realign the bones.

Contact our New York doctors to make an appointment or have any specific questions about growth plate injuries addressed.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.