OBJECTIVES: To study the rate, causes, and nature of rock climbing injuries presenting to an accident and emergency (A&E) department. METHODS: Patients presenting with rock climbing injuries to an urban A&E department were studied prospectively for one year. RESULTS: 19 rock climbers presented during the year, at a rate of one per 2774 A&E attendances. Fourteen climbers were injured on outdoor cliffs and five on the local indoor climbing wall, where the safety mats were noted to be in poor condition. Eighteen climbers had been injured during falls, 17 hitting the ground. Twelve of these climbers sustained fractures, four of which were missed on initial attendance. The remaining climber sustained the characteristic A2 pulley finger injury, which was treated conservatively with a good result. CONCLUSIONS: The risks of rock climbing in Britain would be reduced if lead climbers arranged protection at earlier stages of climbs. Sports centres with climbing walls should regularly inspect and repair their safety equipment. It is important for staff in A&E departments to appreciate the large forces involved in any climbing fall, in order that significant injuries are not missed. Those treating injured climbers should also be aware of the specific injuries to which elite climbers are predisposed.
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