Radiographs of the hands of 36 rock climbers were compared with radiographs of the hands of controls matched for age and sex. Subchondral cysts were present in the hands of 17 climbers and only two controls. Osteophytes or bony spurs were present in 14 climbers but not in any of the controls, and the only two cases of frank osteoarthrosis were in the hands of climbers. Cortical thickness of the proximal and middle phalanges was significantly greater in the hands of climbers (P = < 0.01). Pronounced 'scalloping' of the necks of the proximal phalanges was only seen in climbers, and is due to thickening of the attachment of the distal end of the fibrous A2 pulley of the flexor sheath.
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