Young wrists, forearms and elbows are vulnerable to injury. Did you know up to 30 percent of all childhood fractures involve the growth plate? Growth plate fractures require prompt treatment to avoid surgery or life-long deformity.
Few kids grow up without breaking something. Prompt, expert care of fractures, especially those involving a bone’s growth plate, ensures childhood misadventures don’t linger into adulthood. CHOC Children’s Fracture Clinic offers rapid access to specialized fracture care. Patients are usually evaluated and treated within three to five days of injury, well within the narrow treatment window recommended by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Afshin Aminian, M.D., medical director of the CHOC Children’s Orthopaedic Institute, explains what every parent should know about growth plate fractures.
Q. Why do children’s fractures need to be treated so quickly?
Dr. Aminian: Growth plates, located near the ends of long bones, help regulate and determine a bone’s eventual shape in adulthood. However, growth plates are very soft and vulnerable to fracture. They also heal very quickly, which gives us a very short window to do minor, non-surgical manipulations to set broken bones correctly. Ideally, a growth plate fracture should be set within a week of injury. After that, surgery is necessary to prevent a life-long deformity.
Q. What are the main causes of growth plate fractures you commonly see?
Dr. Aminian: An estimated one-third of growth plate injuries occur during competitive sports such as football, basketball or gymnastics. Monkey bars, skateboards, snowboards and “heelies” (roller shoes) are also very rough on young wrists, arms and elbows. Wrist guards provide some protection, but more importantly, children should always wear a helmet when engaging in those activities. I always tell my patients that it is much easier to fix a broken arm than a broken head.
For more information about the CHOC Children’s Fracture Clinic, please visit www.choc.org/orthopaedics.