The Effects of Physical Activity on the Epiphyseal Growth Plates: A Review of the Literature on Normal Physiology and Clinical Implications

Timothy A. Mirtz, Judy P. Chandler, Christina M. Eyers

Abstract


Background: Children need physical activity and generally do this through the aspect of play. Active play in the form of organized sports can appear to be a concern for parents. Clinicians should have a general physiological background on the effects of exercise on developing epiphyseal growth plates of bone. The purpose of this review is to present an overview of the effects of physical activity on the developing epiphyseal growth plates of children.

Methods: A National Library of Medicine (Pubmed) search was initiated using the keywords and combinations of keywords "growth plate", "epiphyseal plate", "child", "exercise", and "physical activity."

Discussion: Bone is a dynamic tissue with a balance of osteoblast and osteoclast formation. The normal functioning of the epiphyseal growth plate is an important clinical aspect. Much of the physiology of the epiphyseal growth plate in response to exercise includes the important mechanical component. Growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor I, glucocorticoid, thyroid hormone, estrogen, androgen, vitamin D, and leptin are seen as key physiological factors. While there is a need for children to participate in physical activity, clinical consideration needs to be given to how the epiphyseal growth plate functions.

Conclusions: Mechanical loading of the bone is important for epiphyseal plate physiology. Exercise has a healthy function on the normal growth of this important biomechanical feature. Clinically, over-exertion in the form of increased load bearing on the epiphyseal growth plate creates an ideal injury. There is a paucity of research on inactivity on the epiphyseal growth plate resulting in stress deprivation. Further research should take into consideration what lack of exercise and lessened mechanical load bearing has on the function of the epiphyseal growth plate.




doi:10.4021/jocmr477w


Keywords


Child; Physical activity; Epiphyseal growth plates; Bone; Exercise; Mechanical loading

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