Growth Plate Fracture

A growth plate fracture is a crack or split in or through the growth plate of a bone. Growth plates are softer areas of the bone that are made of cartilage. They occur at both ends of the bone to allow growth through childhood. The area hardens once bones are fully mature. There are 5 types based on what parts of the bone are fractured:

  • Causes

    Growth plate fractures are the results of a trauma to the bone.

  • Definition

    A growth plate fracture is a crack or split in or through the growth plate of a bone. Growth plates are softer areas of the bone that are made of cartilage. They occur at both ends of the bone to allow growth through childhood. The area hardens once bones are fully mature.

    There are 5 types based on what parts of the bone are fractured:

    • Type 1—fracture passes straight through the growth plate and separates the end of the bone from the shaft of the bone.
    • Type 2—fracture passes through the growth plate and the shaft of the bone.
    • Type 3—fracture passes through the growth plate and breaks off a piece of the bone.
    • Type 4—fracture passes through the shaft, the growth plate, and the end of the bone.
    • Type 5—compression (crushing) fracture of the growth plate.
    Femur Fracture
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. The area will be examined by the doctor.

    Images of the bone may be taken with:

    • X-rays
    • MRI
    • CT scan

  • Prevention

    To help prevent fractures, encourage your child to:

    • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
    • Learn the proper technique for exercise and sporting activities.
    • Take a break from sports or exercise when feeling tired.

  • Risk Factors

    These fractures can only occur in growing children.

    Activities that are most often associated with growth plate fractures include:

    • Competitive sports such as basketball, football, or volleyball
    • Recreational activities liking skiing or skateboarding

    The injury can also occur during a motor vehicle accident.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the fracture. About one-third of growth plate fractures happen in the long bones of the fingers. Other common areas include the bones in the forearm and lower legs.

    Symptoms but may include:

    • Pain
    • Swelling and bruising (may be mistaken for a sprain)
    • Visible deformity
    • Persistent or severe pain in the area
    • Difficulty walking or using the affected area
    • Difficulty returning to sport

    Rarely, these fractures can interfere with bone growth, though the risk depends on the fracture type..

  • Treatment

    The goal of treatment is to make sure the bone heals properly and can continue to grow. Treatments may include: