Overuse injuries in the elite rock climber

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Aug;32(8):1369-72. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200008000-00002.


Closed rupture of the flexor tendon sheath has been known to occur in the elite rock climbing population. However, only one study has investigated the prevalence of this entity.

Purpose: To examine an elite climbing group in this country for the prevalence of pulley rupture and report on other commonly occurring injuries in the hand and elbow.

Methods: 42 elite rock climbers competing at the U.S. national championships were evaluated by an injury survey and concentrated examination of the hand and elbow. Manual testing for clinical bowstringing was done for each finger, by the same examiner.

Results: 11 subjects (26%) had evidence of flexor pulley rupture or attenuation, as manifested by clinical bowstringing. Injury to the PIP collateral ligament had occurred in 17 subjects (40%). Other commonly occurring injury syndromes are described.

Conclusion: Our results and others suggest that closed traumatic pulley rupture occurs with significant frequency in this population. In addition, all subjects with this injury continued to climb at a high standard and reported no functional disability.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mountaineering / injuries*
  • Tendon Injuries / epidemiology*