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Health Hazards in Rock Climbing

Submitted by glencoe on 2002-04-10

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Accidental injury and death come to mind when climbers think of the adverse consequences inherent in climbing. In the short term, those are the serious concerns, but climbing can also lead to long-term adverse health consequences. Climbers should be aware of these:

(1) Climbing over long periods, especially intense climbing and training, can lead to musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include tendentious, arthritis, carpal tunnel and tarsal tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the wrist and hand or foot, respectively). All of these cumulative disorders can be disabling and prevent climbers from climbing and from doing even every day activities. If you wish to avoid MSDs, avoid climbing too much, over-training, and exercising injured body parts. Remember, pain is your body’s way of telling you to take a break.

(2) Sun exposure causes skin cancer. Don’t ignore the need to cover-up, use sunscreen, and avoid the mid-day sun. Lips are especially vulnerable, and their exposure is often ignored by outdoor sports people.

(3) Traumatic injury, such as broken bones, can lead to arthritis later in life. Avoid breaking bones.

(4) Single head injuries, and even multiple, low-impact head injuries have been linked to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Diligently avoid all head injury.

(5) Chronic dehydration is bad for your kidneys. Don’t make “gutting-it-out” without water a life-long habit, this could contribute to later kidney disease.

(6) If you are one of the few and the mighty who put-up bolt routes for a living, be aware of the long-term health effects of exposure to noise and silica dust. Noise exposure causes hearing loss, and fine-grained silica dust can cause silicosis, a deadly disease with no cure. Note, limestone dust is not known to be a health hazard.

(7) One or many “hard landings” due to bouldering falls or accidental ground falls can contribute to later arthritis or cause immediate nerve compressing. Compressed nerves may cause you to loose sensation on your lower body.

(8) Climbing has always attracted more than its share of the emotionally dis-functional. Don’t let climbing become your crutch for avoiding the job of everyday life. If you have an emotional disorder, don’t lapse into the climbing lifestyle as a refuge from your emotional problems. Climbing is a traditional refuge for unhappiness, and drug and alcohol abuse. Be kindly, counsel those who are dis-functional into getting help. Being a good person is more important than being a great climber.

Excerpted from, "Ultrasafe-A Guide to Safer Rock Climbing," by George B. Allen---All rights reserved under US copywrite.


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