Injury rates in climbing? Anyone know where are the real stats?





Another quiet period - busy time in life with little to no days off work. Does that mean no climbing? None outdoors anyway - the last time was that quick dash over to Spain at Christmas. The last time climbing outdoors in Ireland? Honestly, can't remember - sometime late last summer? At present I don't mind so much, I'm not overly psyched on the damp cold weather so I'm happy to just get out for walks, train properly (much to come on this in relation to recent stories I've heard) for future trips both at home and the wall and keep up lots of stretching. Not to mention recently getting access to a set of gyms rings that should be just fun to play on at the very least!

Back to this photo. Even though, my absolute primary sport/activity/hobby/love is climbing, I still watch and read an awful lot from other sports. Training methods, not to mention 'training' (note to all who I've watched recently - going to the wall and climbing lots of routes randomly is not training!), is still in it's relative infancy (even if there are numerous books and coaches out there with proper knowledge it seems so I'm always glad to have a heads up in what can be garnered from other sports and disciplines. Even the acceptance of 'coaching' or 'coaches' is a new realm for many (which isn't a bad thing either for other reasons such as people just going climbing for the pure fun of going climbing without targets, etc)!

I saw this photo above through The Science of Sport blog (a great read - probably the rest stories and stats from last summers Olympics) and there's a good follow-up too by the speaker here. Thought I'd go see what the stats are on climbing out of interest.
Since it's a blurry-cam photo, it's the "incidence of injury per 100,000 hours of exposure". The results show:
Construction: 0.005 per 100,000 hours
Service Industries: 0.003 per 100,000 hours
Rugby matches: 9,000 per 100,000 hours(!!!!!!!)
Rugby training: 300 per 100,000 hours
Firstly, it's astonishing to see the level of injury rate in rugby for matches - if not surprising. I wonder where the other stalwarts in Ireland (GAA and soccer) come in in relation to this too?
So, I went off looking for the climbing stats and luckily a friend of a friends pointed me at these links...anyone know of better or other information?


1) Statistics taken from general climbing population in Sweden: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19508652 - 420 injuries per 100,000 hours

Overall, 4.2 injuries per 1000 climbing hours were reported, overuse injuries accounting for 93% of all injuries. Inflammatory tissue damages to fingers and wrists were the most common injury types. The multivariate analysis showed that overweight and practicing bouldering generally implied an increased primary injury risk, while there was a higher re-injury risk among male climbers and a lower risk among the older climbers. The high percentage of overuse injuries implies that climbing hours and loads should be gradually and systematically increased, and climbers regularly controlled for signs and symptoms of overuse. Further study of the association between body mass index and climbing injury is warranted.

2) Mountaineering Accident Statistics: http://www.summitpost.org/mountaineering-accident-statistics/658474#chapter_3
Brilliant set of graphs

3) Increase in injury rates in USA: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090721122848.htm

4)  Another list of comparative sports, this time with UK reporting 310 injuries per 100,000 hours for climbing. http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/risk/sports.html


So, my question is, is there a definitive list of all sports using comparable rates, notes, even if it only includes one continent? There's lots of variability also for level of people trad climbing, sport climbing, bouldering, or even just indoor or outdoor climbing - is there any info to show info on this?

Secondly, it's great to see that climbing as a sport is one of the safer sports you can do (even if most sports are relatively safe anyway) and I'm sure I know quite a few people who have fallen into the over-use trap of injuries! Would your own perceived opinions of injury rate fall into line with these numbers.

Back to work everyone :)
Neal McQuaid2 Comments