What are Growth Plates?
Growth plates are the area of the growing tissues at the each ends of the long bones in children and adolescents. These plates also known as epiphyseal plate or physis are the zones of cartilage. There are at least two growth plates in each bone which determines the length and shape of the mature bone. The growth plates contribute new bones to the existing bones to grow. Since these parts of the bones are soft, they are prone to injury during the developmental stages of a child. This bone region is sometimes weaker than the tendons and ligaments that connect bones to other bones and muscles. It is said that because of its soft nature, 30 percent of fractures in children can happen around the growth plates
When do growth plates close in people?
Sometimes, during the adolescence, our body growth is incomplete. This is during this phase when the growth plates are closed and are replaced by solid bone. However, it is difficult to say exactly when each growth plates close because different bones stop growing at different times. The growing plates at the long bones have an average time when they stop growing. Most of the children after the completion of their pubertal growth stage grow for an average of another two years. The age at which the puberty begins is quite erratic and it depends on many elements including race, gender, and body habits. Generally, females stop growing at the age 12 to 14 years while males stops growing at around age of 14 to 16. [Read – how to grow taller at 16]. However, some children continue growing in height till their late teens but most of the growth in them stops by these ages.
Growth Plate injuries
When we think of growing bones, most of us have the idea that they grow out from the middle of the bone. But, it is the growth plates that help the long bones of the legs and arms to grow at either end of these bones. These growth plates produce new bone tissue for the growth of long bones and this is what determines the final length and shape of bones in an adult individual.
An injured growth plate fails to do its job properly, which can result in crooked or misshapen bones, very short limbs, or it can even cause arthritis. But fortunately, these happenings are very rare. Diagnosing this at the right time and proper treatment, growth plate injuries in children can be recovered without any further long-term consequences.
Who Gets Growth Plate Injuries?
- Growing children and adolescents are prone to growth plate injuries. If a child is injured seriously in a joint then most possibly, he can damage his growth plate than the ligaments that alleviate the joint. A shock that would just cause a sprain in an adult might be the cause of a growth plate fracture in a child.
- Boys are more likely to get growth plate fractures as compared to girls, because girls’ bodies grow and mature at an earlier age than that of the boys. As a result, the bones in the girls’ bodies complete growing earlier, and thus their growth plates are restored by stronger and solid bone.
- People playing competitive sports such as football, basketball, or gymnastics often get growth plate injuries. Recreational activities such as biking, sledding, skiing, or skateboarding may also lead to injuries of the growth plates.
- You may also get growth plate injuries because of a single traumatic event like a sudden fall or road accident, or from constant stress and over physical activities. Generally, the growth plate fractures occur in the fingers’ long bone and outer bone of the forearm as well. Fractures in the growth plate are also common in the lower bones of the leg.
What Causes Growth Plate Injuries?
There are a number of factors that cause growth plates injuries. Most of the common causes of these injuries can be an event such as a fall or blow to the limb or injuries can also happen due to overuse. For example, a gymnast practicing on the uneven bars for a longer time, a long-distance runner, and a baseball pitcher practicing his curve ball to make it perfect can suffer from growth plate injuries.
Although many people suffer from growth plate injuries caused by accidents during playing or any athletic activity, growth plates are also vulnerable to other injuries, like bone infection, that can reduce their normal growth and development. Other probable causes of growth plate injuries include the following:
Fractures in the growth plates are common among physically ill-treated children. And since the growth plate is the weakest part of the bone, these injuries are very common in the children who are abused.
Injury from extreme cold
Children who are regularly exposed to extreme cold can damage their growth plate that further can result in short, thick fingers or early degenerative arthritis (failure of the joint cartilage).
Radiation and medications
Children who are given chemotherapy for cancers can get bone injuries. Long-term use of steroids for seditious conditions such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis can also damage bone growth.
Children suffering from neurological disorders that further results in sensory deficit or muscular disorder are more likely to get growth plate fractures, especially at their ankles and knees. Children who are born with coldness to pain can suffer similar types of injuries.
Growth plates are the area where many hereditary disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system appear. Scientists have been making researches to understand the genes and gene mutations that is involved in skeletal formation, growth, and development. This new study and information is creating hopes for developing improved treatments for children who have poorly formed or improperly functioning growth plates in birth.
Doctors state that disease such as kidney failure and hormone disorders can affect the growth plates and their function in a person. The bone growth in a child suffering from any of these health issues may be negatively affected.
Can I Grow after Growth Plates are Closed?
This is the most frequently asked question by the people who are concerned about their body growth. Many doctors are of the opinion that it is very difficult for an individual to grow after the close of their growth plates. Thus, here we can conclude that after the growth plates close in a person, he or she cannot grow any further.