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Head Injuries in Rock Climbing: A Scoping Review

Published:October 03, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wem.2022.07.001
      Rock climbing was recognized as a sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Despite its increasing participation, there is no knowledge synthesis of head injuries (HIs), defined as any injury to the head, associated with climbing, making it challenging for clinicians to provide evidence-based care. Our aim was to synthesize HI literature within rock climbing and identify knowledge gaps. Six databases (Medline, Embase, Sports Medicine & Education Index, SPORTDiscus, CINAHL, and Cochrane) were searched. Two reviewers screened 345 studies and 31 studies were selected for data abstraction. We found the quality of individual studies mainly “fair” to “good.” Both HI and traumatic brain injury (TBI) had inconsistent definitions and categorization. The HIs represented between 0 to 36% of reported climbing injuries. Between 11 to 100% of HIs were TBIs, defined as an HI with permanent or temporary neurological sequelae. The most common causes of HIs were outdoor falls and falling objects. Climbing-specific factors associated with the causes were infrequently examined in the literature. Data sources of safety practices were incomplete. Overall, there was a lack of literature examining HIs, mechanisms of injury, and safety practices associated with climbing. To improve the tracking of HIs in climbing, we suggest the use of consistent reporting standards and the creation of a climbing injury surveillance system.

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