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Risk factors for injury in sport climbing and bouldering: a systematic review of the literature
  1. Kaikanani Y Woollings 1,
  2. Carly D McKay 1,
  3. Carolyn A Emery 1 , 2 , 3
  1. 1 Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2 Faculty of Medicine, Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute for Child & Maternal Health, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3 Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Kaikanani Y Woollings, Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary, Alberta Canada T2N 1N4; n.woollings{at}


Background Rock climbing is an increasingly popular sport worldwide, as a recreational activity and a competitive sport. Several disciplines including sport climbing and bouldering have developed, each employing specific movements and techniques, leading to specific injuries.

Objective To examine risk factors and prevention measures for injury in sport climbing and bouldering, and to assess the methodological quality of existing studies.

Methods 12 electronic databases and several other sources were searched systematically using predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Eligible articles were peer-reviewed, based on primary research using original data; outcome measures included injury, morbidity or mortality in rock climbing, and included one or more potential risk factor or injury prevention strategy. Two independent reviewers assessed the methodology of research in each study using the Downs and Black Quality Index. The data extracted is summarised, and appraisals of the articles are presented with respect to the quality of evidence presented.

Results 19 studies met the inclusion criteria, and introduced 35 possible risk factors or injury prevention measures in climbing. Age, increasing years of climbing experience, highest climbing grade achieved (skill level), high climbing intensity score (CIS) and participating in lead climbing are potential risk factors. Results regarding injury prevention measures remain inconclusive.

Discussion This field is relatively new and, as such, the data are not as robust as for more established sports with a larger research foundation. The key need is establishing modifiable risk factors using prospective studies and high quality methodology, such that injury prevention strategies can be developed. The CIS may be a useful measure in this field of research.

  • Sport climbing
  • Rock climbing
  • Risk factor
  • Review
  • Prevention

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