Friday, February 25, 2011

Injuries in Bouldering

In 2007, Josephsen et al.  conducted a prospective study on injuries in bouldering in the journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.  This journal article caught my eye because there is very limited research conducted on the climbing discipline of bouldering or any discipline of climbing for that matter.  On a side note, the book featured below has a wealth of knowledge on this subject and provides a structured format for recovering from various climbing injuries.

Here is a quick run-down of the article.

  • Number of people climbing recreationally has increased from 7.3 million to 9.2 million over the last decade.  This figure may be even higher since this article was published in 2007.
  • The continual rise of involvement in the sport has led to increased injury rates.
  • Bouldering, unlike sport or trad climbing involves serial repetitive movements that are strenuous and powerful to a greater extent than what might be encountered in a sport or trad climb. 
  • This may predispose boulderers to an increased risk of overuse syndromes.
  • Three main ways in which a boulderer can sustain an injury include 1. climbing the boulder, 2. falling, and 3. spotting.
  • 2 Cohorts of Climbers (31 outdoor and 22 indoor climbers who completed the study)
  • Outdoor boulderers consisted of individuals from various parts of the country that have access to a wealth of outdoor bouldering.
  • Indoor boulderers where recruited from a gym that does not have near-by outdoor bouldering and primarily climb indoors.
  • Initially all of the climbers filled out survey regarding demographics of the population and then after a year were given an internet follow-up survey to assess any new injuries that may have taken place over the year.
  • Outdoor boulderers injure fingers more than indoor boulderers. (61% vs. 27%)
  • Finger injuries were the most common injury followed by shoulder, then elbow.
  • Falling injuries were lower in outdoor bouldering then indoor bouldering (23% vs. 50%), however outdoor boulderers were more likely to be injured falling.
  • Falling injuries were most prevalent at the ankle and the foot.
  • Spotting injuries were more prevalent in outdoor boulderers. (10% vs. 2%)
  • Nothing really earth shattering present is this journal article.  As a climbing community we should be aware that the most common climbing injuries involve the hand and fingers.  After that, a numerous amount of injuries take place from falling which include the ankle and foot.
  • The majority of boulderers in the study reported being injured and half of those injuries occurred as a result of falling.
  • The vast majority of injuries were to the upper extremity however (fingers and shoulders).
  • Research has shown that the nature of climbing/bouldering make finger pulley injuries extremely likely over time, specifically the A2 finger flexor tendon sheath pulley.  The two main positions under investigation are the crimp and slope grip.
Josephsen, G. et al. (2007) Injuries in bouldering: A prospective study.  Wilderness and Environmentla Medicine, 18, 271-280.

Stayed tuned to the blog, I am planning on reviewing several other scientific journal articles that pertain to climbing/bouldering.

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