Injury Rates, Patterns, Mechanisms, and Risk Factors Among Competitive Youth Climbers in the United States

Published:February 07, 2022DOI:


      Competitive rock climbing is a fast-growing sport. Despite comprehensive reviews on adult climbing-related injuries, few pediatric-specific reviews exist, and studies exclusively on competitive youth climbers are needed. Objectives of this study include 1) estimating the injury rate (IR); 2) describing injury patterns and mechanisms; and 3) identifying injury risk factors in competitive youth climbers.


      The study design was cross-sectional. Competitive youth climbers were included. Participants completed an anonymous questionnaire to document climbing injuries over the preceding 12 mo. Demographic data and data regarding injuries were collected. The IR was calculated. Analyses were performed to assess association between injury and multiple variables. Multivariate logistic regression was completed for significant variables to control for exposure time.


      The IR was 2.7 injuries per 1000 climbing hours. Hand/Finger injuries were most frequent; chronic overuse was the most common etiology. Injury severity was low overall. Risk factors significantly associated with climbing injury were climbing discipline (bouldering > sport/lead climbing), return to climbing while still in pain, finger taping, higher number of hours climbed per session and per year, climbing at higher bouldering difficulties, and unsupervised climbing.


      The IR in competitive youth climbers was found to be lower than previously reported but higher than suggested by adult studies or those that exclude chronic injuries. Findings are consistent with types, severity, and mechanisms reported in other studies. Modifiable risk factors, especially return to climbing while still injured, warrant further prospective investigation.


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