Do growth plates in bones determine height?

Aside from genetics, growth plates in your bones play a vital role in determining height. While often overlooked, these structures hold immense power, dictating your growth trajectory from infancy to adulthood. So, what do they do? The answer is in this post below! Keep scrolling to know it!

What are growth plates?

Growth plates, called epiphyseal plates, are the main drivers of longitudinal bone growth in children and teens. They are placed at the ends of long bones, like the femur, tibia, and humerus, necessary for determining ultimate height.

Growth plates, composed mainly of cartilage, show a remarkable degree of flexibility, allowing them to suffer the forces exerted on growing bones during rapid growth. This cartilaginous tissue works as a dynamic scaffold for bone extension, facilitating the deposition of new bone material in a controlled manner.

Although these plates are resilient, they are prone to injury, particularly during childhood when bones are growing. Falls or sports-related collisions might prevent the fragile balance of growth plate function, potentially contributing to growth disturbances and deformities if left untreated. As parents, you need to know the anatomy and vulnerability of growth plates are crucial for protecting the skeletal health of growing children.


Do growth plates in bones determine height?

The short answer is yes. 

However, how do these growth plates do? Let’s explain clearly!

Cartilage cell division and bone tissue formation

Cartilage cells endure a series of events to drive bone elongation. Through a process called endochondral ossification, these cells will proliferate and hypertrophy. When they mature, they gradually calcify, paving the way for the infiltration of blood vessels and osteoblasts, specialized cells responsible for bone formation. Then these osteoblasts transform the calcified cartilage into new bone tissues, lengthening the bones.

Bone extension during childhood

Growth plates operate at peak efficiency to drive rapid bone lengthening, especially when you are young. This process starts with the formation of a reserve zone within the growth plate, where identical stem cells await activation. As the cartilage cells undergo mitosis, they create new cells that migrate toward the metaphysis or the end of growing bones.

Therefore, these cells separate into mature chondrocytes, orchestrating the sequential events of endochondral ossification and bone expansion. Through this process, bones extend incrementally, leading to the overall increase in height noticed during childhood.

Role of hormones

Growth hormone, secreted by the pituitary gland, acts as a main driver of skeletal growth, stimulating chondrocyte proliferation and matrix synthesis within the growth plates. Additionally, sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, play a pivotal role in regulating growth plate closure and bone maturation. Estrogen, in particular, promotes the fusion of growth plates, signaling the end of longitudinal bone growth and contributing to the attainment of adult height.

Which factors affect growth plates?


Genes wield considerable influence over our height destiny, acting as the blueprint that guides our growth potential. Variations in specific genes can predispose individuals to different heights, as inherited traits from parents contribute significantly to overall stature.



Essential nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, protein, and micronutrients, provide the building blocks necessary for bone formation and maintenance. Hence, a well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods promotes healthy growth and supports the activity of growth plates, ensuring bones reach their full potential.


Regular exercise stimulates bone remodeling and increases bone density, ultimately enhancing skeletal strength and resilience. Additionally, it helps boost the release of growth factors and hormones, such as growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), contributing to growth plate activity and bone elongation.

Medical conditions

Endocrine disorders, such as growth hormone deficiency or hyperthyroidism, disrupt the hormonal balance for proper growth and development. Chronic illnesses, nutritional deficiencies, and genetic syndromes can also interfere with growth plate function, leading to growth disturbances or stunted stature. Early detection and appropriate medical management are essential for addressing underlying conditions and optimizing growth potential in affected individuals.

When do growth plates close?

As teens turn into adults, their bone growth undergoes a profound change; the closure of growth plates. This process marks the ends of cartilaginous tissues within the growth plates, effectively stopping further expansion of the bone.

For girls, growth plate closure typically occurs between the ages of 13 to 15. On the other hand, boys experience a slightly later closure, with the average age range falling between 15 and 17 years old.

While average age ranges provide a helpful benchmark, the timing of growth plate closure is highly variable and influenced by a myriad of factors. Genetics, nutrition, hormonal balance, and overall health can all impact the rate of skeletal maturation. Some individuals may experience earlier closure, while others may continue to grow taller into late adolescence. Therefore, it is essential to consider individual development trajectories rather than adhering strictly to age-based norms.

Can you increase height after the growth plates close?

Once growth plates close, the opportunity for height gain diminishes considerably. This closure typically occurs during late adolescence, signaling the end of longitudinal bone growth. While it may seem bad to accept, there are still strategies you can try to maximize your perceived height and overall posture. 

Maintain good posture

Proper alignment of the spine and limbs not only creates the illusion of taller stature but also contributes to overall well-being and confidence. By consciously practicing good posture habits, such as sitting and standing tall with shoulders back and chin up, you can enhance your vertical presence and exude an air of confidence and poise.

Using postural exercises

Engaging in targeted exercises designed to strengthen core muscles and improve posture can further enhance perceived height. Exercises that focus on the muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvis help support the spine and maintain proper alignment, reducing the likelihood of slouching or stooping. Engaging in activities, such as yoga, Pilates, and functional training, can promote spinal flexibility, muscular balance, and postural awareness, ultimately contributing to a taller, more confident stance.

Investing in supportive footwear

Choosing footwear with proper arch support and cushioning can also have a significant impact on perceived height and overall posture. Shoes with elevated heels or supportive insoles help align the spine and pelvis, promoting a more upright posture and reducing strain on the lower back. Additionally, selecting shoes that provide adequate support and stability can improve gait mechanics and prevent foot-related issues that may contribute to poor posture.

To sum up,

These growth plates, through a complex interplay of cellular activity and hormonal signaling, orchestrate the remarkable feat of bone elongation during childhood and adolescence. While their closure marks the end of height increase, their impact on stature cannot be overstated. Understanding the role of growth plates in height determination offers valuable insights into our skeletal health and growth potential. Although we cannot control our genetic blueprint, we can certainly appreciate the intricate dance of growth plates and celebrate the unique stature they bestow upon us.



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