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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Helping my child with a growth plate injury

Te āwhina i tāku tamaiti ngā wharanga papa tupuranga

growth plate treatmentThere are several things you and your tamaiti (child) can do to make sure their injured bone heals as well as possible.

For the first 24 to 48 hours, apply ice to the area for 20 minutes at a time. This helps to ease pain and reduce swelling. Wrap the ice in a damp towel or cloth, do not apply it directly to the skin or you could cause an ice burn.

Your tamaiti child may need simple pain medication. Make sure they take it regularly until they are comfortable, but never exceed the recommended dose for their weight. Do not give them anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen, as this may slow down their bone healing.

Encourage your tamaiti to move the parts of their body below the injury, for example their hand and fingers if the injury was in their wrist, or their foot if their injury was in their leg. If they have a cast, they can gently move the joints above and below the cast while it is on. Once the cast comes off they can focus on getting the affected joint moving.

When their cast has come off your tamaiti can return to low-impact, non-contact sports such as swimming as soon as they are comfortable. They should avoid any contact or high-impact sports, such as rugby, netball, and athletics for six weeks after their cast comes off.

Follow-up

After treatment, most tamariki (children) do not have any long-term complications from growth plate injuries. In a few, the injury slows down or even stops growth in the injured bone, which can lead to a deformed limb and problems with the way it works.

Some injuries just need to be watched to check the affected limb is growing at the same rate as the unaffected one. If the arm or leg becomes shorter or curved (bowed) it will need to be checked.

Some growth plate injuries are more likely to lead to later problems than others. These injuries may need regular X-rays and follow-up until your tamaiti has stopped growing.

So it's important to keep regular follow-up appointments with your doctor and follow their advice, to make sure the bones are healing and growing normally.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2022.

Page reference: 964651

Review key: HIGPI-371216