Elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand injuries among sport rock climbers

Clin J Sport Med. 1996 Jul;6(3):196-203. doi: 10.1097/00042752-199607000-00010.


Objectives: Sport rock climbing with its repetitive high-torque movements in gaining the ascent of a rock face or wall, often in steep overhanging positions, is associated with a unique distribution and form of upper limb injuries. In this article, we review the biomechanical aspects of sport rock climbing and the types of injuries commonly encountered in the forearm, wrist, and hand regions of elite sport rock climbers. Because elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand injuries predominate, representing 62% of the total injuries encountered, these anatomical areas have been selected for review.

Data sources: The predominant source of data are the published work of Bollen et al. The remaining sources were obtained through electronic search of the Medline and Current Contents Databases (last searched May 1995). German and French articles were included in the search criteria.

Study selection: Only studies dealing with acute soft tissue and overuse injuries amongst sport rock climbers were selected.

Data extraction: Data were extracted directly from the sourced articles.

Data synthesis: The following injuries have been described in detail with regard to their presentation, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention amongst sport rock climbers: medial epicondylitis, brachialis tendonitis, biceps brachii tendonitis, ulnar collateral ligament sprain of the elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, digital flexor tendon pulley sheath tears, interphalangeal joint effusions, fixed flexion deformities of the interphalangeal joints, and collateral ligament tears of the interphalangeal joints.

Conclusion: Many of the injuries are specific to the handhold types used by the rock climber. Accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of these unique injuries will be facilitated by a wider understanding of the biomechanical aspects of rock climbing and an awareness of the patterns and incidence of injuries in this sport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm Injuries* / etiology
  • Arm Injuries* / physiopathology
  • Arm Injuries* / therapy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elbow Injuries
  • Finger Injuries / etiology
  • Finger Injuries / physiopathology
  • Finger Injuries / therapy
  • Forearm Injuries / etiology
  • Forearm Injuries / physiopathology
  • Forearm Injuries / therapy
  • Hand Injuries / etiology
  • Hand Injuries / physiopathology
  • Hand Injuries / therapy
  • Humans
  • Mountaineering / injuries*
  • Wrist Injuries / etiology
  • Wrist Injuries / physiopathology
  • Wrist Injuries / therapy