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Rock-Climbing Injury Rate Soaring

First national study finds large jump in ER treatments since 1990

SUNDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- As more people rise to the challenge of rock climbing for fun and exercise, the number of injuries related to the sport also increases, according to the first national study on the subject.

More than 40,000 people sought treatment in U.S. emergency rooms from 1990 to 2007 for fractures, sprains and other ailments related to rock-climbing -- a 63 percent increase during that time, researchers at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported.

"This trend, combined with the fact that rock climbers have a higher hospitalization rate than other sports and recreational injuries, demonstrates the need to increase injury prevention efforts for climbers," study author Lara McKenzie, a principal investigator for the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a hospital news release.

Falls caused about 70 percent of the injuries, with the distance the person fell correlating to the injury's severity. Patients who fell from heights of greater than 20 feet had 10 times the likelihood on needing to be hospitalized, compared with those who fell from lesser heights.

Fractures, sprains and strains made up almost half the injuries, with the lower part of the body being the area most likely to be hurt.

The average age of an injured climber was 26, with about 56 percent of those hurt being between the ages of 20 and 39. Younger climbers accounted for 30 percent of those injured, while the rest were aged 40 or older.

Although most injured climbers were men, 28 percent of the injuries occurred to women, a higher percentage than found in earlier research done into rock-climbing injuries.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about preventing sports injuries .

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Nationwide Children's Hospital, news release, July 2009

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