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Growth Plate Fractures


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2019
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What is a growth plate fracture?

A fracture is a broken bone.

A growth plate is the area of cartilage near the end of a bone. Growth plates are where bones grow. Only children and adolescents have growth plates, because after bones are done growing, growth plates turn into regular bone.

Locating Growth Plates

Growth plates (indicated by the pink lines) are areas of cartilage near the ends of long bones, such as the arm and leg bones. They enable bones to lengthen until children reach their full height.

Locating Growth Plates
  • A growth plate fracture is a break through or across a growth plate

Cartilage is softer than bone so it breaks more easily.

  • Only children and adolescents get growth plate fractures—adults have bone where the growth plates used to be

  • A growth plate fracture hurts and swells just like any broken bone

  • A growth plate fracture can stop the bone from growing or make it grow crooked

  • Your child will need a cast or splint

  • Rarely, doctors have to do surgery to put the bones back in place

What causes growth plate fractures?

Growth plate fractures happen from:

  • Strong force, such as a fall or car crash

  • Stress on your bones from repetitive motions

Children who do gymnastics, baseball pitching, or long-distance running are more likely to get growth plate fractures.

What are the symptoms of a growth plate fracture?

Symptoms include:

  • Pain, especially when the area is touched

  • Swelling

  • Trouble moving the injured body part or putting weight on it

How can doctors tell if my child has a growth plate fracture?

To tell if your child has a growth plate fracture, doctors do:

How do doctors treat growth plate fractures?

Doctors treat growth plate fractures by:

  • Gently moving the bones back into place

  • Using a cast or splint to keep the bones in place while they heal

  • Sometimes, doing surgery and holding the bones in place using metal pins, screws, rods, or plates

A crushed growth plate causes problems with the way the bone grows. Children who have a growth plate fracture should see a pediatric orthopedist (a doctor who specializes in treating children's bones, muscles, and joints).

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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