Growth Plate Injuries

What are Growth Plate Injuries?

Growth Plate Injuries occur when the growth plates become damaged. The damage happens to cartilage plates at either end of the bones found in growing children’s bodies.

These growth plates (epiphyseal plates) determine how long and strong a bone will be when fully developed.

Abnormal bone development occurs when these plates become damaged.

What Causes Growth Plate Injuries?

Growth plate injuries are common in children due to their active lifestyle and immature skeletal system. Growth plate injuries occur when a child engages in activities that stress their bones or joints too much.

These injuries can occur from playing sports or from falls and collisions.

Types of Growth Plate Injuries

There are four types of growth plate injuries in children:

Epiphysis separation: Occurs when the joint capsule is torn away from the growth plate due to sudden force or impact. The result is a complete separation of the epiphysis from the diaphysis, and can cause severe pain and disability.

Salter-Harris: A fracture that involves both the epiphysis and diaphysis.

Physeal widening: Occurs when a sudden force causes the growth plate to widen or expand. This type of injury can cause the growth plate to become unstable and lead to pain and disability.

Avulsion fracture: Type of fracture occurs when a piece of bone is pulled away from the joint due to a sudden force or impact. This injury can cause severe pain, swelling, bruising, and instability.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of growth plate injuries in children vary depending on the type of injury. They can include:

  • Localized pain that may worsen during activity or at night
  • Swelling over the affected area
  • Decreased range of motion near the site of injury
  • Visible deformity around the joint
  • Reduced power in the injured area
  • Limping or favoring one side when walking
  • Difficulty weight-bearing on the affected limb

Risk Factors

Risk factors of growth plate injuries in children can include:

  • Participation in high-impact sports or activities such as football, basketball, gymnastics, and cheerleading
  • Falling from a height
  • Repetitive stress or overuse of an area of the body (such as the throwing arm)
  • Overweight or obese
  • An underlying bone disorder or other medical condition
  • Weak muscles, ligaments, and tendons due to a lack of exercise
  • Poor balance and coordination skills
  • Wearing improperly fitting or inappropriate shoes for the activity being done
  • Poor technique when performing a physical activity


A physical exam by a medical professional will diagnose growth plate injuries.

An X-ray or MRI scan can help diagnose the condition.

The doctor can order a blood test or other lab work to rule out any underlying condition that could be causing the growth plate injury. Treatment

Treatment of growth plate injuries in children depends on the severity of the damage.

A doctor may recommend rest, a pain reliever, a splint, or a cast to immobilize the affected area.

Surgery may be necessary to reposition the bone and cartilage.

Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles and tendons around the affected area.

CHRISTUS Children's - Orthopedic Clinic

At CHRISTUS Children's - Orthopedic Clinic, our team of fellowship-trained pediatric orthopedic surgeons also includes care members specifically trained in pediatric orthopedics.

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