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 firstname.lastname@example.org or book your next appointment online here.