Image of Taylor rehabbing a torn meniscus (climbing-related) and his wife, Jennifer, climbing with a brace on after ACL surgery (climbing-related).


Dr. Peter Buzzacott requested I share the following press release. He’s the author of a 2019 study titled “Rock Climbing Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments, 2008-2016.”

An international team researching rock climbing injuries have found the number seen in Emergency Departments doubled in just the last nine years. Their article in the latest issue of the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine reports the number is now almost 5,000 per year in the US alone. Fractures were the most common injury, at 27%, followed by sprains and strains at 26%. Falls were the most common cause of the injuries, with broken ankles the most common fracture. With the growth in popularity of indoor climbing gyms and competition climbing included as one of next year’s Olympic sports, the researchers fear the number of serious injuries will likely continue to grow. “We encourage all rock climbers to wear the appropriate safety gear, gain experience gradually and, most importantly,…” said Dr Jim Chimiak, one of the study’s co-authors, “we recommend everyone focus on a good belay. At least 60% of these injuries were from falling and a quarter of those falls were from a height more than 6m (20ft). Proper belay techniques, training for falls and optimizing the use of (protection) gear is essential.” A belay is where a climber is attached by a rope to an anchored climbing buddy who can arrest a fall before impact. The youngest climber in this study was 7 years old and the eldest was 77, but the great majority were around 25 years of age. While most climbing injuries do not require a visit to the Emergency Department, that many thousands of active rock climbers are presenting at Emergency Departments with sometimes serious injuries is of grave concern to the research team, who admit they cannot tell whether the growth in rock climbing injuries is because climbers are trying riskier manoeuvres, or because of recent growth in the popularity of rock climbing, a problem known as the “newbie syndrome”.

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