Growth Plate Fractures Part 1

Above: A growth plate fracture in a young climber.

This is a two part series on growth plates and young climbers. An uncommon injury, climbers and their coaches need to be aware of this possibility when dealing with bony tenderness near the joint line in the young climber.

Growth Plate Anatomy:

An area of cartilage that forms into bone is called the physis or more commonly the growth plate. Rubbery and flexible, it exists only in those still developing into adulthood. The growth plate is located in the zone between the end of the bone (epiphysis), and the long shaft itself (metaphysis), Where the bone elongates with growth, once adulthood is reached, the growth plate ossifies and hardens into regular bone.

Closing once the region has finished growing, they are prone to fracture as they are made of a softer material than bone itself. With trauma or overuse, fractures do occur in this region. 15-30% of all childhood fractures occur in the growth plate region and most commonly in males as females finish growing earlier than males.