Immobilization of Growth Plate Injuries

If a growth plate injury is mild—meaning that the growth plate has not “closed,” or stopped the adjacent bone from growing; it hasn’t begun producing bone too quickly; and the bone is not out of alignment—your child’s doctor may suggest immobilizing the injured area for a specified period of time. Three to four weeks of immobilization with a cast, brace, or splint can help to protect an injured growth plate from further injury and give it time to heal.

Some types of immobilization devices are removable, while others, such as casts, remain in place until the injury heals. Your child’s doctor can advise you on whether the device should be worn 24 hours a day or only during certain activities. 

Your child’s doctor can also advise you on how to help your child go about daily activities while wearing an immobilization device. In general, NYU Langone doctors recommend the following: 

  • Keep the cast or splint dry. Cover the cast or splint in two layers of plastic while your child takes a bath or shower. Special waterproof shields for casts and splints are available.
  • Do not put baby powder or other substances into a cast. It may be tempting to do so if your child complains of itching, but powders or creams under a cast can irritate skin and lead to infection. 
  • Check the area around the cast, brace, or splint each day. If the skin is raw or red, or if there is swelling just below or above the cast, brace, or splint, contact your child’s doctor immediately. These are all signs that the immobilization device may be too tight, possibly because of swelling. Contact your child’s doctor if your child experiences tingling or numbness while wearing a cast, brace, or splint. 

If a growth plate injury is severe and could affect your child’s development, the doctor may recommend surgery.

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