The bones of children and adults share many of the same risks for injury. However, a child's bones are also subject to a unique injury called a growth plate fracture.
Growth plates are areas of developing cartilage tissue near the ends of long bones. The growth plate regulates and helps determine the length and shape of the mature bone. When a child becomes full-grown, the growth plates harden into solid bone.
Because growth plates are the last portions of bones to harden (ossify), they are vulnerable to fracture. In fact, because muscles and bones develop at different speeds, a child's bones may be weaker than the ligament tissues that connect the bones to other bones.
Children's bones heal faster than adult's bones. This has two important consequences:
- A child with an injury should see a doctor as quickly as possible, so the bone gets the proper treatment before it begins to heal. Ideally, this means seeing a Foot and Ankle Specialist within 5 to 7 days of the injury, especially if manipulation to align the bone is required.
- The fracture will not need to stay in a cast for as long as an adult fracture would require for healing.
Appropriate evaluation by a podiatric surgeon experienced in trauma will determine the nature of the growth plate injury, will provide counseling about treatment options, and will allow for longer term follow up to assess the outcome of the injuries.