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Injuries of the upper body extremities in recreational climbers: incidence and risk factors
  1. M van Middelkoop,
  2. S Rakhshandehroo,
  3. M L Bruens,
  4. B W Koes,
  5. S M A Bierma-Zeinstra
  1. Erasmus Medical University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Background In recent years sport climbing is increasing in popularity, due to the improvements of climbing facilities. This sport has a spectrum of associated injuries which involve most frequently overuse injuries of the hand and the finger.

Objective To determine the incidence of climbing related injuries in Dutch recreational climbers and to identify possible risk factors that are associated with these injuries.

Design A prospective cohort study.

Setting Indoor climbing halls.

Participants 426 recreational climbers in four different climbing halls were recruited.

Assessment of risk factors All climbers filled in a baseline questionnaire including potential risk factors such as age, gender, body mass index, education level, finger strength, climbing level/experience/time, main climbing activity, earlier injury, training with campus board, performing warming-up/cooling down and other sport activities. Finger strength was measured with the DIGITSgrip. A physical examination was performed to examine the shoulders, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers.

Main outcome measurements Follow-up questionnaires were sent to all climbers at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months follow-up and reported on new injuries occurred due to climbing.

Results A total of 178 (41.8%) climbers reported a new injury during the 1-year follow-up period. Fingers were the most reported injuries, followed by the elbow and shoulder. A climbing level >6a, climbing more than 40 h per 3 months, bouldering and those who train with a campus board and perform warming-up and cooling-down exercises are univariately associated with a higher injury risk. Only a climbing level >6a (OR 2.00, 95%CI 1.25 to 3.19) remained in the multivariate regression model as being associated with climbing injuries.

Conclusion Climbing injuries of the upper body extremities in Dutch recreational climbers are very frequent. The most common site of an injury is the finger. A climbing level >6a is a risk factor for climbing injuries in this recreational climbing population.

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