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Growth Plates

What Is a Growth Plate?

Growth plates are the areas of new bone growth in children and teens. They're made up of cartilage , a rubbery, flexible material (the nose, for instance, is made of cartilage).

Most growth plates are near the ends of long bones. Long bones are bones that are longer than they are wide. They include:

  • the femur (thighbone)
  • the lower legs (tibia and fibula)
  • the forearm (radius and ulna)
  • the bones in the hands and feet

What Does A Growth Plate Do?

Growth plates are one way bones grow. There are usually two growth plates in each long bone. They add length and width to the bone.

As kids grow, the growth plates harden into solid bone. A growth plate that has completely hardened into solid bone is a closed growth plate. After a growth plate closes, the bones are no longer growing.

When Do Growth Plates Close?

Growth plates usually close near the end of puberty. For girls, this usually is when they're 13–15; for boys, it's when they're 15–17.

What Problems Can Happen With a Growth Plate?

The growth plate is weaker than solid bone. This makes it more likely to get injured.

These problems can happen with growth plates:

Growth Plate Fractures

Growth plate fractures are when there is a break in the growth plate. This happens most often in the bones of the fingers, forearm, and lower leg. Most growth plate fractures heal and do not affect future bone growth.

Sometimes, changes in the growth plate from the fracture can cause problems later. For example, the bone could end up a little crooked or a bit longer or shorter than expected.

Overuse/Repetitive Stress Injuries

Overuse injuries (also called repetitive stress injuries) can affect the growth plate in kids and teens. Overuse injuries happens from repeating the same movement over and over. They usually happen to people who play sports. 

Overuse injuries that involve the growth plate include:

Reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 21, 2019

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