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A simple sprain or a serious growth plate fracture?

Whether your child was involved in a playground accident, a car crash or another traumatic incident, it's critical to ensure that his or her "minor injuries" really are minor.

Most children are quite resilient and heal quickly. However, injuries to growth plates can be hard to diagnose right away - and such injuries can potentially lead to lifelong deformities.

What is a growth plate fracture?

According to the Mayo Clinic, this is a kind of bone fracture that affects the actively growing tissue at the end of many long bones (leg bones, arm bones, finger bones, etc.) in children. These areas of growing tissue are called growth plates, and they are very soft and vulnerable.

Any type of fall or trauma - such as a sports injury or a car accident - can potentially cause a growth plate fracture. They tend to be twice as common in boys, however, and frequently affect the legs, forearms and fingers.

What are the symptoms?

Here are a few common symptoms to watch for:

  • Inability to put weight on a joint or limb
  • Complaints about consistent pain in arms, legs or fingers
  • Swelling and warmth near a joint
  • Obvious deformity in a limb

What long-term problems can occur?

Without prompt treatment, a growth plate fracture can lead to permanent deformity. The injured limb may never grow as long as the corresponding, uninjured limb. It may also end up crooked.

The younger the child, the more dangerous a growth plate fracture is to him or her. Location also plays a role. The growth plates in knees tend to be far more sensitive to long-term damage than the growth plates in wrists and shoulders, for instance.

What kind of treatment is necessary?

Depending on the severity of the fracture and its location, your child may simply need a cast, or he or she may require surgery. In many cases, the doctor must take a series of X-rays over several years to see if the fracture is causing growth-related problems or not.

This is one reason to not accept an insurance company's settlement offer until you speak with a skilled attorney. Your child has a long life ahead of him or her, and the final amount of personal injury compensation should take the full scope of his or her injuries into account.

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