What are common orthopedic problems in children?

Vincent Burke
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

As the child's body grows and interacts with the world of playgrounds, gym, sports, and/or accidents comes orthopedic problems for children such as sever's (heel) and Osgood -Schlatter (knee) disease, anterior cruciate ligament tears (knee), scoliosis (spine) or rotator cuff tendinitis (shoulder). There are other orthopedic problems (not as prevalent) can come from birth defects i.e. cerebral palsy (tendon shortening), brachial plexus syndrome (loss of movement of part of a limb) and/or torticollis (tight neck muscles) to name a few however all affect the child's motor skills. Often, when a child's nervous system is involved it needs a multidisciplinary approach.

The most important thing to do is to find the appropriate person for the pathology at hand. This may take some searching and asking a lot of questions. Remember if a Physical Therapist or Doctor says he is an orthopedist does not mean he has the clinical skills to treat pediatrics (children). It is best to make sure they specialize in pediatrics. I always say, "we don't give all football players the same care....children football players play and train differently than the professional football players, but both groups are football players.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Some of the more common orthopedic problems in children include:

  • A muscle contraction of the neck with the head tilting away from the affected side; more common in big, firstborn babies with long labor. It usually goes away with gentle manipulation over the first few months.
  • A dislocation of the shoulder from a too-big baby trying to get through a too-small space. Called shoulder dystocia, this is easily treated after birth.
  • A clavicle (collarbone) fracture, which is rare but heals well.
Other childhood orthopedic problems include:
  • Duplicated Digits (extra fingers or toes): Being born with a sixth digit is not uncommon. Extra digits can be tied off (and they'll automatically fall off on their own) or surgically removed.
  • Syndactyly: This is a congenital connection or fusion between digits. Most are repaired when the child is over one year old under anesthesia.
  • Rickets: Extreme bowleggedness caused by a body's resistance to vitamin D or prolonged insufficient intake of vitamin D3. (Mild bowleggedness is common in most kids and resolves itself.) Rickets is often seen in kids who are also short. These kids don't need to be braced, but need nutritional support.
  • Clubfoot: This is a true congenital deformity involving all bones in the foot. These babies get put in casts for the first year or so of life to help turn the foot and improve long-term flexibility.
YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

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YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

There’s little doubt that parenting can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you’ll ever have. But it can be plenty tough, too: Around the clock, you’re working to keep your...
There are many different orthopedic problems in children. Some are congenital, meaning that they have had them since birth and started in the womb; others present themselves later on. There are fractures, spine conditions, soft tissue or bone tumors, and hip and knee problems. Some of these are benign and will go away on their own, while some are serious and need immediate attention. If you are concerned that your child has an orthopedic problem, let your primary doctor know so he or she can rule out some of the serious problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.