Have you ever watched a toddler take a dive at the playground and wonder how on earth they didn't just break all the bones in both their arms? Well, as it turns out, toddlers are built to withstand the bonking and pounding they put their bones through all day every day. And even older children have bones that are made to bend rather than break when they fall off a bike. These fascinating facts about kids' bones might surprise you — and will probably reassure you the next time you see your kid take a crash.
At this point, we probably shouldn't be surprised that the human body is made to do amazing things, because childbirth alone is darn impressive from a physiological standpoint. Bones protect our internal organs and give our bodies structure, according to Kids Health, and they are "alive, growing and changing all the time like other parts of your body." That's why kids' bones are particularly fascinating, because of the sheer growth they do in their first two decades.
All that growing that bones do can pose some problems if bones are broken, but if all goes according to plan, bones are downright fascinating to think about while you watch your kid jump and fall and twist.
1. They Have More Than Adults
When babies are born they have almost a third more bones than they'll end up with as adults. Babies are born with about 300 bones and by the time they turn 25, they will have only 206 bones. Some of the bones babies are born with are made up of bendy cartilage. Kids Health explained, "During childhood, as you are growing, the cartilage grows and is slowly replaced by bone, with help from calcium."
2. They Heal Faster
Thankfully, kids' bones heal faster than adult bones, which helps when they're flinging themselves around the jungle gym at the park. "When you're young, you're building bone faster than it can be replaced" explained How Stuff Works. Kids' bones are being regenerated by bone-building cells at a rapid rate, so when a bone is broken, the body diverts some of those cells to the broken bone. "The bone, however, is already engaged in a supercharged rate of growth. It's like having five people working together to knit a small scarf and adding 10 more people to help out after a stitch gets missed."
While an adult might need to leave his arm in a cast for 6-8 weeks to heal a broken bone, a child could heal in as little as a few weeks.
3. They Don't Break As Easily
Thankfully, kids' bones are designed to withstand all the action they get up to every day. Kids' bones have a thicker covering and are more flexible than adults' bones, which "makes them better able to absorb shock," said Healthy Children. Instead, kids' bones are more likely to bend or not fracture completely. They typical fall in one of two categories: “'greenstick' fractures, in which the bone bends like green wood and breaks only on one side, or 'torus' fractures, in which the bone is buckled, twisted, and weakened but not completely broken," the site explained.
When this happens, a kid's bone is most likely still put in a cast to keep it protected from breaking it all the way through if the child falls again, according to the Mayo Clinic.
4. Kid's Growth Plates Are Open
"Growth plates are zones of cartilage at each end of our long bones," described David E. Attarian, MD, a joint replacement orthopaedic surgeon at Duke University Hospital to their site, and the growth plates contribute new bone material to these already established bones so that they can keep growing, the site explained.
While kids' bones heal faster and don't break as easily as an adult's, there is a major concern when it comes to their fractures and how they affect growth plates, which are still open and growing. The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) explained why growth plate fractures need to be treated quickly, "Because the growth plate helps determine the future length and shape of the mature bone, this type of fracture requires prompt attention. If not treated properly, it could result in a limb that is crooked or unequal in length when compared to its opposite limb." However, the AAOS reassured parents that that complication is rare.
5. Forearm Fractures Are The Most Common In Kids
Not surprising, kids break their arms more than any other bones. Ortho Kids reported, "Forearm fractures are the most common fractures in children (up to 50 [percent] of all fractures in children!) and occur in [one] out of every 100 children." So if your kid comes home with a broken arm, consider it almost a rite of passage. Most kids' forearm bones will heal with a splint or case, but some need to be "reset to improve the alignment of the bones."
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