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Rock Climbing Lands More People in ER

Study Shows Injuries Are Increasing Along With the Sport's Popularity
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By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 24, 2009 -- As rock climbing gets more popular, emergency room doctors are seeing an increase in injuries from the sport. A new study shows a 63% increase in the annual number of injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1990 to 2007.

The most common injury? Fractures (29%) and strains and sprains (29%). The most frequently hurt body region was the lower extremities, accounting for 46% of injuries. The ankle was involved in 19% of all injuries. Falls were responsible for 78% of injuries. More than half of patients were between the ages of 20 and 39.

Researchers looked at data, collected between 1990 and 2007, from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. All ages were included. An estimated 40,282 patients were treated for rock climbing injuries during that 18-year period. Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at the Nationwide Children's Hospital conducted the study.

With rock climbing walls in gyms and on playgrounds, the sport has grown in recent years. An estimated 9 million people in the U.S. were participating in the sport by 2005, according to background information in the study.

Authors of the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, called for more research on how climbers' characteristics, climbing setting, style of climbing, use of safety equipment, and training affect their risk for certain injuries.

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