With approximately 9 million people in the U.S. participating in rock climbing, a new study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at the Nationwide Childrens Hospital revealed a 63% increase in the number of patients that were treated in U.S. emergency departments for rock climbing-related injuries between 1990 and 2007. The study found that 40,000 patients were treated in U.S. emergency departments for rock climbing-related injuries during the 17-year period between 1990 and 2007.
“We found that the climbers who fell from heights higher than 20 feet accounted for 70% of the patients there were hospitalized for a rock climbing-related injury,” explained study author Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Childrens Hospital and faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “This trend, combined with the fact that rock climbers have a higher hospitalization rate than other sports and recreational injuries, demonstrates the need to increase injury prevention efforts for climbers.”
The most common types of rock climbing-related injuries were fractures (29%) and sprains and strains (29%). Lower extremities were the most common region of the body to be injured (46%) while the ankle was the most common individual body part to be injured (19%). Climbers in the study ranged in age from 2 to 74 years, with an average age of 26 years.
Falls were the primary mechanism for injury with over three-quarters of the injuries occurring as the result of a fall. Data for this study was collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. CPSC.