LAYTON — Braden Hall was hoping doctors at Davis Hospital and Medical Center would tell him he would reach at least 5 foot 10 inches by the time he’s fully grown, so when they told him he could possibly reach 6 feet 2 inches, he was thrilled.
“He flew out of there on a little cloud,” his mother Sharalee Hall said. “We’re short people, so when they told him he still had room to grow he was very excited.”
Hall took her 16-year-old son to a Height Predictor Screening clinic recently. B. Thomas Watson and Rodney Jay, both orthopedic surgeons at Davis Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, saw more than 140 kids in one day who wanted to know how tall they’d eventually become.
“We take an X-ray of the left hand,” Watson said. “Using their current age and height, we are able to compare the growth plates and bones of the hand to scientific charts to determine how tall the child will be.”
Braden’s growth plates were still open, they said, which meant the Syracuse High School basketball player still had more growing room.
The X-ray procedure, called a bone age study, uses a very small amount of radiation, the doctors said. The bones on the X-ray are compared with images in a standard atlas of bone development, which is compared with large numbers of other kids of the same gender and age.
A child’s bones, such as those in the fingers and wrist, contain “growing zones” at both ends, called growth plates. These plates consist of cells responsible for the growth and length of the bones. Growth plates are easy to spot on an X-ray because they’re softer and contain less mineral, making them appear darker than the rest of the bone on an image, Watson said.
As a child grows, the images on the X-ray shows a thinning in growth plates and eventually they disappear, which means the growth plates are closed.
Not only is the height predictor fun and enjoyable for kids and their parents, Watson said, it can help in determining the athletic potential of an individual where size may play a role in choosing a sport. In addition, it can also evaluate how fast or slowly a child’s skeleton is maturing, which can help doctors diagnose conditions that delay or accelerate physical growth and development.
The screening, which can be done any time between the ages of 8 and 18, can be used to some extent to monitor progress and guide treatment of kids with conditions which affect growth — such as growth hormone deficiency, hypothyroidism, precocious puberty and adrenal gland disorders, genetic growth disorders and orthopedic problems.