Growth plate fractures

A growth plate fracture affects the layer of growing tissue near the ends of a child's long bones. Growth plates are the softest and weakest sections of the skeleton — sometimes even weaker than surrounding ligaments and tendons. An injury that might cause a joint sprain for an adult can cause a growth plate fracture in a child.

Growth plate fractures often need immediate treatment because they can affect how the bone will grow. An improperly treated growth plate fracture could result in a fractured bone ending up more crooked or shorter than its opposite limb. With proper treatment, most growth plate fractures heal without complications.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Most growth plate fractures occur in bones of the fingers, forearm and lower leg. Signs and symptoms of a growth plate fracture may include:

  • Pain and tenderness, particularly in response to pressure on the growth plate
  • Inability to move the affected area or to put weight or pressure on the limb
  • Warmth and swelling at the end of a bone, near a joint

When to see a doctor

If you suspect a fracture, take your child to be examined by a doctor. Also have your child evaluated if you notice a visible deformity in your child's arms or legs, or if your child is having trouble playing sports because of persistent pain.

Although a growth plate fracture can be confused with a sprain, a fracture usually will have more swelling and persistent pain over time.

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