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Pediatric Orthopedics: How a Child’s Injury Treatment Can Differ from an Adult’s

For many of us, it’s all too easy to remember our very first sprained ankle or separated shoulder—the unexpected childhood injury that landed us in a clinic or emergency room for the first time. Whether it happened on the playground, in gym class, or in a wrestling match with your sibling, these types of childhood mishaps are almost a rite of passage, helping us realize that we’re not indestructible.

Youth injuries have helped educate the medical community over time, revealing how the treatment of these and other musculoskeletal conditions in children can differ quite a bit from how we’d approach the same issues with an adult.

For minor scrape-ups, a trip to the school nurse might have been all that was required when you were a kid. Suffering a more serious injury wasn’t always easy to get the care needed without traveling a long distance to the nearest major city. Fortunately, this is no longer issue in our community. Southeastern Med (SEORMC) has experienced orthopedic surgeons on staff, along with state of the art technology you’d find in Columbus or Cleveland.

Dr. Bill Kumler, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, specializing in Sports Medicineat SEORMC, has more than two decades of experience in his field, treating patients of all ages. This has given him unique insights into the ways that pediatric orthopedics–diagnosing and treating –can be entirely different from caring for adult patients.

“When it comes to bones, sports injuries, and musculoskeletal problems in general, children are not just smaller versions of adults,” Dr. Kumler explains. “For example, in children’s bones, there is a thick periosteum, or covering, that helps the bone grow and is strong like leather. That covering can help keep a bone stable even if it’s been broken, meaning that a child’s broken bone won’t always cause swelling or show deformity. Adults, meanwhile, have a periosteum that’s more like tissue paper, and when the bone breaks, it tears.

“Children also have a growth plate, or physis,” Kumler adds, “which is located near the end of each bone and allowing it to grow longer. When this is injured, you have about three days to realign it before it becomes a much tougher problem. Usually the growth plate recovers well from injuries if it is rested and protected. If the growth plate is injured severely enough or not recognized and treated correctly, it can be damaged in a way that the bone will not grow correctly. Children’s bones are weaker than adults and their growth plates are the weak spot (generally weaker than ligaments), so what might result in a sprain in an adult can be a broken bone or growth plate in a child.”

Fortunately, Dr. Kumler notes that, despite that extra vulnerability, children actually tend to heal faster from broken bones than adults do. This is because the growing process essentially means a child’s bone cells are already turned “on” and ready to respond positively to treatment.

The majority of children treated by Dr. Kumler have suffered a broken bone, likely in the same way many of us did—jumping off the jungle gym or slipping on the ice. However, now that more children are playing competitive sports and training at a high level at an earlier age, there are also more “sports injuries” occurring among teens and adolescents than there ever were in generations past.

“This can include ACL tears,” Dr. Kumler says, “as well as stress fractures of bones and growth plates from overuse and excessive training. Children are also showing more burnout from sports in addition to the overuse and repetitive use injuries. The idea of ‘no pain, no gain’ is absolutely not appropriate for children. In fact, there are studies indicating that athletes who start playing multiple sports at the high school level are much more likely to succeed in college and professional sports than those that specialize in a sport at an early age.”

Along with repairing broken bones and treating sports injuries, the pediatric orthopedic team at Southeastern Med can also evaluate limps (with or without pain), scoliosis, infections of the extremities, and any ongoing pain or unexplained lumps/masses in the arms or legs, and many other conditions.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment for your child with an orthopedic specialist, contact our Southeastern Med Orthopedics Team today!