Risk factors for injury in sport climbing and bouldering: a systematic review of the literature

Kaikanani Y. Woollings, Carly D. McKay, Carolyn A. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Citations (SciVal)
1016 Downloads (Pure)


Background Rock climbing is an increasingly popular sport worldwide, as a recreational activity and a competitive sport. Several disciplines including sport climbing and bouldering have developed, each employing specific movements and techniques, leading to specific injuries.

Objective To examine risk factors and prevention measures for injury in sport climbing and bouldering, and to assess the methodological quality of existing studies.

Methods 12 electronic databases and several other sources were searched systematically using predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Eligible articles were peer-reviewed, based on primary research using original data; outcome measures included injury, morbidity or mortality in rock climbing, and included one or more potential risk factor or injury prevention strategy. Two independent reviewers assessed the methodology of research in each study using the Downs and Black Quality Index. The data extracted is summarised, and appraisals of the articles are presented with respect to the quality of evidence presented.

Results 19 studies met the inclusion criteria, and introduced 35 possible risk factors or injury prevention measures in climbing. Age, increasing years of climbing experience, highest climbing grade achieved (skill level), high climbing intensity score (CIS) and participating in lead climbing are potential risk factors. Results regarding injury prevention measures remain inconclusive.

Discussion This field is relatively new and, as such, the data are not as robust as for more established sports with a larger research foundation. The key need is establishing modifiable risk factors using prospective studies and high quality methodology, such that injury prevention strategies can be developed. The CIS may be a useful measure in this field of research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1094-1099
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number17
Early online date25 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


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