Acute injuries and overuse syndromes in sport climbing and bouldering in Austria: a descriptive epidemiological study

Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2012 Jun;124(11-12):357-62. doi: 10.1007/s00508-012-0174-5. Epub 2012 Jun 3.


Background: The increasing popularity of climbing activities is associated with a rise in the number of respective injuries and overuse syndromes. However, a comprehensive scrutiny of the incidence, kind and severity of climbing-related ailments in Austria is so far outstanding. We aimed to evaluate injuries and overuse syndromes in sport climbing and bouldering in Austria and to investigate whether the injury incidence differs between specific groups of climbers.

Design: Retrospective cross-sectional self-report study.

Methods: A self-report questionnaire to assess (a) demographic and anthropometric characteristics, (b) climbing experience and skill level, and (c) detailed information on climbing-related injuries was made available in climbing halls and on the Internet. Data from 193 climbers (133 males and 60 females; age 30.4 ± 8.1 years; average climbing experience 9.3 ± 7.7 years) were acquired.

Results: A total of 374 injuries were reported by 130 participants (67.4 %). The single most common differential diagnoses, accounting for 56.7 % of all injuries, were strains and ruptures of annular ligaments of the fingers, lateral epicondylitis of the elbow, and sprains or fractures of the ankle joint. The odds for strains of the annular ligaments and lateral epicondylitis were greater in men and increased with older age and higher exposure to climbing stress.

Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive study investigating climbing-related injuries in Austria. The incidence and kind of the ailments reported confirm results of previous studies. Moreover, our results suggest that the risk to suffer climbing-related overuse syndromes, but not acute injuries, is dependent on sex, age, and exposure to climbing stress.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Arm Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mountaineering / injuries*
  • Mountaineering / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology*