Growth Plate Injuries

The discussion of “growth plates” in sporting contexts is fairly common, especially when discussing childhood injuries.

If you’re like anyone else, you’re probably wondering what exactly is a growth plate? And can damage to them really interfere with a child’s development? Let’s set the record straight.

So, what is a growth plate?

Growth plates are the common name for sections of cartilage found towards the ends of long bones, acting almost as a cross-section. Long bones are longer than they are wide, and can be found in most areas of the body including arms, legs, hands and feet, for example the femur (thigh bone) and ulna (lower arm bone).

Rather than growing from the centre outwards, long bones actually grow from the growth plate. When a child has finished growing, the sections of cartilage harden into regular bone. Girl’s growth plates will turn into bone earlier, due to their developmental differences to boys.

Are they really as dangerous as people say?

Growth plate injuries are common due to how fragile cartilage is in comparison to fully-developed bone, so it depends on the type of damage caused to the growth plate and how the bone responds to treatment. Many growth plate injuries require surgery to re-attach the end of the bone to the shaft, so the cartilage can keep growing.

This means that frequent check-ups after the injury and treatment will be necessary, to make sure the growth plate is back to doing its job. Sometimes, treatment isn’t successful the first time round and this has potential to impact the growth of the bone from that point on.

Some complications can include the bone beginning to curve, growing less than its counterpart, or more than its counterpart. In rarer cases, a bar of bone can form and cause disfigurement.

The regular check-ups with your doctor and physiotherapist can pick up on any issues early and ensure rehabilitation is smooth and swift.

So, what do I need to know?

  • Growth plate injuries in children are like regular fractures, they can happen after an acute accident such as a slide tackle in soccer gone wrong, or develop over time due to overuse and stress, for someone like a long distance runner.
  • Over 30% of growth plate fractures happen in sport and 20% in recreational activities.
  • If you suspect a fracture of any kind, it is essential you seek advice from your doctor so they can organise an x-ray. After this, treatment and rehabilitation can begin.

The team at Progressive Sports & Spinal Physiotherapy are experienced in a range of areas including injury management and rehabilitation. If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment, contact the practice today on (02) 4721 7798, email info@progressiverehab.com.au or book your next appointment online here.

Suzanne graduated from Western Sydney University with a Bachelor of Health Science (Sports and Exercise Science) in 2015. She then went on to continue her studies at Macquarie University graduating from the Doctor of Physiotherapy post-graduate degree in June 2019.

Since graduating, Suzanne has worked in the local Penrith area in both private practice and Sports Physiotherapy. Suzanne has worked with sporting teams including Penrith District Netball Association, Mt Druitt Rangers (NPL), Penrith Valley Figure Skating Club, and local dance and cheer schools. 

Suzanne has a particular interest in working with artistic athletes including cheerleaders and dancers. She has a professional background in both cheer and dance and has previously worked as both a cheer coach and dance teacher. Suzanne’s previous experiences are an invaluable resource to her as a physiotherapist, as she has a thorough understanding of the level of physical fitness and skill acquisition that these athletes must have in order to be successful on stage and in competition.

Suzanne’s other areas of clinical interest reside in lower limb musculoskeletal injuries, spinal pathologies and women’s health.

Nathanial graduated as a physiotherapist in 2012 which saw him work in private practice and hospital settings gaining experience in all areas of physiotherapy including hand therapy, splinting/casting, pre/post-operative care, Men’s Health and general musculoskeletal, occupational and sports physiotherapy. Since then he has gone on to complete further studies in physiotherapy enabling him to be the only dual titled Musculoskeletal, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist in Penrith.

Nathanial has a strong background in sports physiotherapy achieving accreditation with NSWIS as a service provider and working with many elite sports teams.

Nathanial has a particular interest in working with elite athletes, complex cases and in particular assessment and management of knee, hip and shoulder pain.

Andrea graduated from the Australian Catholic University completing her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2018 and Master’s of Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2020. After graduating she attained accreditation with ESSA as an Exercise Physiologist.

During her studies she gained clinical experience in both hospital and private practice settings, working in the cardiac rehabilitation program, heart failure service and mental health unit at Nepean Hospital. And at the ACU Exercise and Lifestyle Clinic working with clients with neurological conditions, cancer and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Since graduating, Andrea enjoys working with a variety of clients. She has a particular interest in treating musculoskeletal injuries and neurological conditions, striving to help people increase their functional capacity to get them back to work, sport or the things they love doing.