Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Climbing injuries study

Via Climbing Narc, there's a new study on climbing injuries out.

Not to be overly critical, but calling this a study seems like a stretch. It's really just a presentation of (mostly obvious) data. There's not really an attempt made to gather/present related data and not even basic statistical comparisons are made based on numbers/proportions of participants.

Keeping in mind that this study apparently only includes climbing injuries which resulted in a trip to the emergency room, let's summarize...

1) Like any other sport, fractures, sprains and strains are the most common injuries (you don't go to the emergency room for tendinitis or a scraped knee)

2) In the cases that might send you to the emergency room, major shoulder injuries and injuries from falls seem most likely

3) Ankle injuries seem the most likely in a fall

4) Falling from higher than 20 ft. is usually bad for you.

This statement is a real gem too, "The severity of fall-related injuries correlated with the height of the fall." Let me translate that: The farther you fall, the more it will hurt.

If this is a study, what did they study? Why not just say "We randomly decided it's time to announce the following facts..." There's no information on the relative number of male vs. female climbers so we can't say who gets hurt more often. There's also no information on the type of climbing being done (sport, trad, bouldering) which would be interesting too. Finally, since the first paragraph says "Study findings revealed a 63 percent increase in the number of patients that were treated in U.S. emergency departments for rock climbing-related injuries between 1990 and 2007", I'd at least expect an estimate of the increase in participants during the same period.

I'm not sure why, but this type of thing drives me crazy. Maybe it's just the thought that my tax dollars probably paid for it.

UPDATE: Brian sent me a link to the whole article which he has uploaded on his site. I read through it and although most of the results are still pretty intuitive, there's a lot more information, including confidence intervals and statistical analysis. A few interesting things in the whole article which weren't in the press release:

Over 1/2 of patients who fell >20 ft. were hospitalized and over 70% of hospitalized patients were injured by falling >20 ft.

Also, here is the conclusion of the article:


This report confirms much of the existing research on medically-attended rock climbing–related injuries, which indicates that lower-extremity injuries and fractures, sprains, and strains are most common. However, this is the first study to examine rock climbing–related injuries using a nationally representative sample. More research is needed on the role of personal safety equipment and environmental protection (e.g., padded floors in climbing gyms) and their impact on injury prevention among rock climbers. As the demographic characteristics of recreational climbers shift to include those who are younger and more inexperienced, with the increasing availability and popularity of climbing, the injury patterns of the sport may change as well. Given the disproportionate focus on elite climbers in the literature, the epidemiology of rock climbing–related injuries among recreational climbers should be studied specifically so that injury prevention strategies and awareness can be appropriately targeted.

I'm still not overly impressed, but at least the authors realize most of this isn't too surprising and the most interesting questions haven't been answered yet.

1 comment:

  1. "This statement is a real gem too, "The severity of fall-related injuries correlated with the height of the fall." Let me translate that: The farther you fall, the more it will hurt."

    Mostly true. Once your say, 50ft off the ground without any protection, you might as well be 1000ft off the ground. But hey, thats actually more noteworthy than the original article. Thanks Doug. Take care.