Growth Plate Injuries

What is a growth plate injury?

Growth plates are areas of growing tissue near the ends of bones. They are located at each end of long bones, like the femur (thigh bone), in young people. Growth plates allow us to grow, and as long as the growth plates are active, or “open,” your child will continue to grow taller. Once your child is done growing, the growth plates fuse, or “close,” and are replaced by solid bone. Growth plate cartilage is weaker than normal bone. This relative weakness of the growth plate makes it vulnerable to injury and damage, including fractures. In some cases, a growth plate fracture can cause permanent damage to the growth plate and may result in abnormal growth in the future. This abnormal growth can lead to a difference in the length or growth of the bone on the injured side and may result in the development of a crooked or deformed arm or leg.

What causes a growth plate injury?

If your child has a growth plate injury, it may have been caused by:

  • A fall
  • A direct blow
  • Sports trauma
  • A twisting injury

What are symptoms of a growth plate injury?

If your child has a growth plate injury, he or she may experience:

  • Visible deformity
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Increased pain at site of injury

How do we treat growth plate injuries at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health?

Our pediatric orthopedists are trained to promptly diagnose growth plate injuries and work with your child and your family to design a treatment plan that will produce the best outcomes. The right treatment can help avoid growth plate problems that could lead to growth deformity or a shortened limb.

Treatment will depend on the type and location of the injury and your child’s age. X-rays or other imaging may be necessary to diagnose a growth plate injury. Most injuries will not require surgery, but more severe cases will heal better with surgical treatment.

Many pediatric orthopedists at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health conduct research on growth plates, including studying the optimal treatment of growth plate fractures and designing surgical procedures that protect the growth plate for knee ligament reconstructions and other sports injuries in young athletes.