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Growth plates are areas of cartilage that regulate bone growth in children. These cartilage masses are located near the ends of bones, developing into solid bone when the child finishes growing. Until that skeletal maturity is reached, however, they are very susceptible to injury.
Injuries to growth plates can occur from trauma, like a sudden impact from a fall. Overuse of the joint can also cause injury to growth plates, especially from sports that involve throwing, like baseball or football.
Swelling, inability to move the joint normally, and pain after activity are common symptoms of growth plate injuries. Your doctor will determine if a growth plate injury has occurred through a physical examination. The diagnosis will be confirmed through an imaging study like an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, which will also be used to determine the best course of treatment for the injury.
It's important to treat growth plate injuries properly, otherwise a severe injury could negatively interfere with normal growth, resulting in shortened or deformed limbs. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Mild injuries may be treated with conservative methods like physical therapy, rest, immobilization, and medication to reduce swelling. Severe injuries may require surgery to correct displacement of the growth plate or to remove debris from the joint.