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The epidemiology of rock-climbing injuries


Objectives: To determine the prevalence and nature of rock-climbing injuries, and the factors associated with these injuries.

Design: A retrospective cross-sectional study.

Setting: Rock climbers were recruited at five outdoor and six indoor climbing venues in the UK.

Participants: 201 active rock climbers (163 male, 38 female climbers) aged 16–62 years.

Assessment of risk factors: Rock climbing behaviours and key demographics.

Main outcome measures: Injuries requiring medical attention or withdrawal from participation for ⩾1 day.

Results: Around 50% of climbers had sustained ⩾1 injury in the past 12 months, causing a total of 275 distinct anatomical injuries. 21 climbers (10%) had sustained acute climbing injuries as a result of a fall, 67 (33%) had chronic overuse injuries, and 57 (28%) had acute injuries caused by strenuous climbing moves. Dedicated climbers participating in different forms of rock climbing more often and at a higher level of technical difficulty may be more prone to injury, particularly overuse injuries of the finger and shoulder. The principal sources of treatment or advice sought by climbers were physiotherapists (18%), other climbers (14%) and doctors (11%).

Conclusions: Climbing frequency and technical difficulty are associated with climbing injuries occurring at both indoor and outdoor venues, particularly cumulative trauma to the upper extremities.

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