Rock Climbing Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments, 2008–2016

Peter Buzzacott, Isabelle Schöffl, James Chimiak, Volker Schöffl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Previous research identified a trend for increasing numbers of injuries sustained while rock climbing. This study investigates whether that trend continued and describes characteristics of climbing injuries. Methods: The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System registry was searched for rock climbing injuries in US emergency departments in 2008 through 2016 among patients aged ≥7 y. Variables included each patient's age, diagnosis, injured body part, mechanism of injury, and disposition. Injuries were graded using International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation injury grades. National estimates were generated using sample weighting. Results: An estimated 34,785 rock climbing injuries were seen in emergency departments nationally, a mean of 3816 per year (SD 854). The median age of injured climbers was 24 y (range 7–77), with those aged 20 to 39 y accounting for 60% and males for 66%, respectively. Fractures (27%) and sprains and strains (26%) were the most common types of injuries. The most frequently injured body parts were lower extremities (47%), followed by upper extremities (25%). The most commonly fractured body part (27%) was the ankle. The knee and lower leg accounted for 42% of all lacerations and were 5.8 times as likely as lacerations to other body parts. Falls were the most common mechanism, accounting for 60% of all injuries. Conclusions: This study reports continued increase in annual numbers of climbing injuries. Whether this is based on a higher injury rate or on a higher number of climbers overall cannot be stated with certainty because no denominator is presented to estimate the injury rate among climbers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-128
Number of pages8
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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