Survey of Hand and Upper Extremity Injuries Among Rock Climbers

Hand (N Y). 2017 Jul;12(4):389-394. doi: 10.1177/1558944716679600. Epub 2016 Dec 27.


Background: Rock climbing first evolved as a sport in the late 18th century. With its growing popularity, the number of rock climbing-related injuries has potential to increase, spurring a rise in the number of articles associated with it. Despite the available literature, there remains a paucity of information about upper extremity injuries sustained by rock climbers, and no studies to date have focused on gender-specific injuries.

Methods: A 24-question online survey was distributed to rock climbers about upper extremity injuries sustained during rock climbing. Statistical analysis was used to study association between participants' demographics and injuries.

Results: A total of 397 participants responded to the survey. Mean age was 32.5 years with males comprising 85%. No significant differences in demographics or climbing behaviors were found between males and females. Ninety percent of participants reported sustaining an upper extremity injury. Fingers were the most common injury followed by shoulder/arm and elbow/forearm. Our study found females to be more likely to report a rock climbing-related injury, and more likely to undergo surgery for it.

Conclusion: Female rock climbers were significantly more likely to report a shoulder/upper arm injury and were also more likely to report undergoing surgery compared with males, where these differences were not due to age or climbing behaviors. Further investigation is warranted into the association between shoulder injuries and female athletes to determine how the gender differences relate to extent of injury as well as health service utilization behaviors.

Keywords: gender specific injuries; hand injuries; rock climbers; rock climbing; upper extremity injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Pain / epidemiology
  • Contusions / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lacerations / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Professional Competence
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tendon Injuries / epidemiology
  • Upper Extremity / injuries*
  • Young Adult