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Q: What are "growth plates", and can they be injured?

A: Growth plates are areas of bones where the bones are still growing. For example, the long bones of the legs have growth plates that allow the leg bones to grow as a child grows. These areas eventually close when the bones stop growing. However, these areas of bones are susceptible to injury. Sometimes the growth plates at the back of the heel or the side of the foot (at the base of the 5th metatarsal bone) can get inflamed by blunt trauma or by tension and stress from athletic activity. These may require oral anti-inflammatory medication, icing, or sometimes several weeks of non-weight bearing with a cast and crutches to heal. If a child sprains his/her ankle, sometimes the bones can break or dislocate along the growth plates. These injuries are more serious and often require casting, sometimes even surgery to set the bones.

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