Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Integrative Physiology

First Advisor

Dr. Steven Hobbs, PhD

Second Advisor

Dr. Aaron Provance, MD

Third Advisor

Dr. Alena Grabowski, PhD


Background: With the inclusion of climbing in the 2020 Olympics, the number of adolescent competitors is on the rise. Epiphyseal fractures to the middle phalanx, also known as growth plate injuries, are almost exclusive to adolescent climbers, and the most common climbing injury in adolescent competitors. A2 pulley ruptures are the most common injury in skeletally mature climbers. There is a paucity of research on youth-specific climbing injuries and no previous research on perceptions of adolescent rock climbers about youth-specific climbing injuries.

Purpose: To examine the awareness, perceptions, and training practices of youth-specific climbing injuries and risk factors amongst elite, adolescent rock climbers.

Methods: We surveyed elite adolescent rock climbers, ages 8-18, competing in the 2017 USA Climbing Sport and Speed National Championships. Subjects answered questions on their knowledge and awareness of the most common youth climbing injury and safe training practices. Chi Square, one-way ANOVAs, and Bonferroni post hoc tests identified misperceptions about youth climbing injuries and the safe age to start double dyno campusing, a climbing-specific training exercise. Risk ratios were used to make accuracy comparisons between adolescent competitors who self-reported as injury “informed” and “uninformed.” A Fisher’s Exact test was used to determine if training regularly on the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) speed wall correlated with self-reported growth plate injuries.

Results: 267 climbers completed the survey (mean age =13.99±2.66 SD, 51.9% male, 48.1% female). The adult-specific A2 pulley injury was erroneously reported by the subjects to be the most common youth climbing injury, with an average ranking of 3.09±2.20 SD 95% confidence interval (CI) on a scale of 1 (most common) to 8 (least common). Growth plate injury to the finger ranked second most common, with an average ranking of 4.0±2.22. These rankings were significantly different (p

Conclusion: Adolescent climbers are prone to characterizing skeletally immature climbing-specific injuries as A2 pulley injuries seen in skeletally mature climbers. Training regularly on the IFSC speed wall appears to be an additional risk factor for growth plate injuries. As climbing enters the 2020 Olympics, addressing misperceptions will help athletes, parents, and coaches understand the risk for growth plate injuries and guide adolescent climbers and parents to seek medical attention when appropriate. Educating youth, coaches, and parents about finger injuries may reduce the incidence of growth plate injuries and the potential for permanent finger deformity and loss of function.

Available for download on Sunday, October 13, 2019