Bone Growth Plates in Kids Feet

12 Jun Bone Growth Plates in Kids Feet

Growth-Plate Injuries in Children

Playing sports and taking part in fun outdoor activities is a great way to keep children mentally and physically fit. But these activities can also lead to foot problems, from minor ones like a fungal nail or ingrown nail to serious ones like growth-plate injuries.

If your child is experiencing pain, don’t ignore it. Call a foot care specialist to get the right diagnosis and the right treatment.

What are Growth Plates?

Growth plates are bones that have not fully formed into solid bone yet. They are masses of cartilage that are found at both the front and the back of each long bone in the body.

Every bone has three parts: the rounded end which is called the epiphysis, the middle shaft called the diaphysis and the wide end, called the metaphysis. Growth plates are usually found close to the epiphysis. Growth plates are flexible and continually change shape as the body grows during childhood and adolescence. After adolescence, the plates turn into solid bone and stop growing.

Because of their flexibility, growth plates are weaker than solid bone and weaker than the ligaments that attach the joints and bones to each other. That’s why growth plate injuries are common in children, especially those who play sports.

How Common are Growth-Plate Injuries?

Researchers have found that growth-plate injuries account for 15 to 20 percent of childhood foot, ankle and leg injuries. They are most common in boys 16 years old or younger and girls 13 years or old and younger.

They are more common in boys because girls tend to reach skeletal maturity, the stage when the bones are fully formed, at an earlier age.

Growth-plate injuries have the same symptoms as severe sprains or fractures, so consult a podiatrist immediately if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Inability to bear weight on the leg.
  • Pain and swelling.
  • A limb that looks twisted or bent.
  • Unwillingness to play or run.

What Causes Growth-Plate Injuries?

Accidents. Falls sustained while playing sports, running or falling from a high platform is the top reason for growth-plate injuries.

Recreational activities. Children who engage in active pursuits like sledding, ice skating, using playground equipment and skateboarding can all be at risk of growth-plate injuries.

Repetitive motions. Sports and activities that require repeating the same movements, like gymnastics or diving, can also experience these injuries.

Illnesses and treatments. Certain treatments for childhood cancer or arthritis can lead to growth-plate weakness.

Extreme cold. Children who suffer from frostbite can suffer permanent growth-plate injuries and related problems including early-onset arthritis.

Dangers of Growth-Plate Injuries

An untreated growth-plate injury is that it can lead to permanent damage. When the bone solidifies, it will solidify into the damaged, irregular shape and cause chronic pain into adulthood. It’s important to pay close attention to any pain your child complains of. Regular, ongoing pain should never be ignored.

Diagnosing and Treating Growth-Plate Injuries

Because they are cartilage, not bones, growth plates won’t show up on an x-ray. A podiatrist can use special tools to diagnose them.

Treatment usually includes rest and some sort of immobilization of the limb. As the growth plate begins to heal, your doctor will prescribe gentle stretching and other rehabilitative exercises. In most cases, a podiatrist will have to continue following up for two years to ensure the plate has healed properly.

Foot Care for the Whole Family

At Shuman Podiatry & Sports Medicine, we treat major and minor foot and ankle problems. Get ready for summer footwear by fixing your fungal nail or ingrown nail. Correct arch problems with custom orthotics. And when it comes to growth-plate injuries, make sure your child gets the top-notch diagnosis and treatments available anywhere. Call Shuman Podiatry today and make an appointment for a happy, healthy future.

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