A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine establishes that overuse and acute injuries are common in rock climbing, especially among advanced climbers who climb frequently.
After studying 201 climbers (163 male, 38 female) over a twelve month period, the study found that:
half of the participants had sustained one or more injury that required a doctor's visit or a break from climbing in the past year.
10% of participants suffered injuries as a result of falls.
33% of participants suffered some type of overuse injury, often to the fingers and shoulders; and
- 28% sustained injuries as a result of attempting a difficult move.
Increased injury rate for advanced and frequent climbers
Like many sports, rock climbing encompasses a wide range of degree of difficulty, from clambering up low-angle walls with huge hand and footholds, to sustained, near horizontal roof climbing using one finger pockets.
As the degree of climbing difficulty increases so do the incredible stresses placed on the body, with fingers, elbows and shoulders taking the brunt of the punishment. Because of the addictive nature of the sport, overuse injuries to these areas of the body are common, a fact born out by the study.
The study cross referenced participant's with their injuries, how the injury was sustained and at which difficulty level the participant was climbing at the time of injury. Not surprisingly, the study found a direct correlation between injury rates, the technical difficulty of the climb and climbing frequency, noting that "Climbing frequency and technical difficulty are associated with climbing injuries occurring at both indoor and outdoor venues, particularly cumulative trauma to the upper extremities."
Contrary to what non-climbers might think, the study also found that fall-related injuries were "comparatively infrequent, though often serious."
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