Growth Plate Injuries of the Elbow

Overview

Growth plates are sections of cartilage near the ends of bones that are present until a person reaches maturity. They allow the skeleton to grow and lengthen, but are highly susceptible to injury. Growth plate injuries can result from overuse of a joint or from trauma.

Causes

Growth plate injuries most often result from overuse and inadequate rest during sports activities, especially pitching in baseball. Pain after activity or inability to fully move the elbow are warning signs and should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.

Symptoms

A growth plate fracture can cause pain, swelling, and a decreased ability to use the joint. If not treated properly, a severe growth plate injury can interfere with normal skeletal growth, causing a shortened or deformed limb.

Treatment

Treatment options include rest, immobilization of the joint with a cast or brace, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Some injuries that displace the growth plate or damage articular cartilage may require surgery to realign the bones and possibly remove loose pieces of the joint.

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