Mechanism and predisposing factors for proximal tibial epiphysiolysis in adolescents during sports activities

Int Orthop. 2019 Jun;43(6):1395-1403. doi: 10.1007/s00264-018-4168-4. Epub 2018 Sep 29.


Background: Proximal tibial epiphysiolysis (PTE) can have debilitating consequences for young athletes. The mechanism and predisposing factors for this lesion have yet to be determined. To find a common denominator and a biomechanical explanation for PTE, we were using a retrospective analysis of 15 cases in combination with a systematic review of literature.

Methods: A retrospective review of medical charts was performed to identify all PTE between 2003 and 2012. Records were screened for patient age and gender, sports activity, mechanism of injury, and treatment protocols. Additionally, a literature review (MEDLINE/PubMed database, the Cochrane Library, online search engines) was conducted.

Results: Medical charts of 14 adolescents (15 Salter-Harris I and II fractures) were analyzed. The literature review revealed additional 75 fractures. The predominant mechanisms were landing from a jump, takeoff for a jump, stop and go movements, and eccentric muscle contraction with the knee in flexion. The main sports-activities implicated in these injuries were basketball.

Conclusions: Landing from a jump with a decreased knee and hip flexion movement increases tensile forces on the proximal tibia epiphysis. During physiological epiphysiodesis, the growth plate displays an increased vulnerability and such increased tensile forces can lead to a growth plate failure. Neuromuscular fatigue can alter coordination and proprioceptive accuracy during landing from a vertical jump and thus perturbs sagittal shock absorption. In our opinion, trainers should instruct young athletes in techniques that help avoiding uncontrolled high impact landings.

Level of evidence: Level IV.

Keywords: Adolescent; Atypical physeal fracture; Growth fracture; Low-energy fracture; Physeal sports injury; Proximal tibial epiphysiolysis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Epiphyses, Slipped*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tibia*