Kids and Broken Bones

Why it's important to get kids medical attention right away

bear stuffed animal with broken arm

While both adults and kids can get bone fractures, kids are especially vulnerable to a unique injury called a “growth plate injury.” 

What is a growth plate? Growth plates describe the weakest parts of a child’s growing skeleton. They are soft, pliable areas at the ends of bones that produce new bone tissue as children grow. Injuries to the plates are called fractures.

Growth plate injuries occur twice as often in boys than in girls.

Rick Figler, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon, says that when an injury damages a child’s growth plate, it should be treated aggressively. Otherwise, it can lead to a crooked or misshapen bone or arthritis later in life.

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“If a kid sprains their ankle, a lot of times the ligaments will actually stay intact, but the growth plate will get injured,” Dr. Figler says.

Growth plate injuries occur twice as often in boys than in girls. They usually heal faster than adult fractures, but they also can do more damage.

Look for swelling and tenderness in the injured area, and if you suspect a growth-plate injury, see a doctor, says Dr. Figler.

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A growth-plate injury typically shows up on an X-ray. Once treated, it can take several weeks to heal. 

More information

Q & A about Growth Plate Injuries — from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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