Is Osteoarthritis a Danger to Rock Climbers?

Lynn Hill  /  2 Min Read  /  Climbing

Editor’s note: We’re honored to bring Patagonia ambassador Lynn Hill on-board as a contributor to The Cleanest Line. Lynn is no stranger to blogging. For a glimpse into the past 2+ years of her life jump on over to Lynn Hill Blogs.

Lynn_hill2

I was a bit surprised to read the following article about osteoarthritis in rock climbers since I expected the study to show a higher risk in climbers. I’ve seen many climbers’ hands over the years and it seems that the people who climb a lot at a high level of intensity have either really thick fingers and/or damage around the finger joints. Considering the fact that I have climbed for thirty-two years, I feel fortunate that my fingers are in great shape. I think the fact that I am relatively light compared to the average climber is an advantage since I don’t stress my tendons and ligaments so much. I also listen to my body and if I feel pain, I usually stop. It was also beneficial to have had a solid base of climbing experience on slabs and crack climbs in my formative years as a climber. The routes that I climbed in those days helped strengthen my tendons and ligaments as opposed to injuring them on the physically demanding sport routes of today.

Photo: Screen grab from video by Lynn Hill, Brad Lynch, Jim Hurst and Patagonia

According to the following article from Medical News Today, climbers are no more at risk in developing osteoarthritis than non-climbers:

Risk of Osteoarthritis Not Increased in Rock Climbers

A study in the US has found there is no greater risk of osteoarthritis in rock climbers compared to non-climbers, contrary to previous theory.

The study, published in the November issue of Journal of Anatomy, examined osteological changes in the hands and fingers of rock climbers that result from intense, long-term mechanical stress placed on these bones. Specifically, whether rock climbing leads to increased cortical bone thickness and joint changes associated with osteoarthritis. Researchers also wanted to identify whether climbing intensity and frequency of different styles of climbing influence changes. (read full article)

Have you noticed any changes in the thickness of your fingers due to climbing?

Related Stories

Fighting Forty (Part 5): One-Year Anniversary
The 5th and final installment in Kelly Cordes' series about perils and pleasures of aging gracefully while slaying stereotypes (the first installments are here:1, 2, 3, and 4). A series of significant injuries – the most recent a severely torn shoulder – forced Kelly to bow out of an exciting trip to Patagonia. In this…
The 5th and final installment in Kelly Cordes' series about perils and pleasures of aging gracefully while slaying stereotypes (the first installments are here:1, 2, 3, and 4). A series of significant injuries – the most recent a severely torn shoulder – forced Kelly to bow out of an exciting trip to Patagonia. In this…
Kelly Cordes
7 min Read
Fighting Forty (Part 4): Training Smarter, Not Harder
Part 4 in Kelly Cordes' series about perils and pleasures of aging gracefully while slaying stereotypes (the first three installments are here:1, 2, and 3). After a series of significant injuries – the most recent a severely torn shoulder – Kelly was forced to bow out of an upcoming trip to Patagonia with fellow climbing…
Part 4 in Kelly Cordes' series about perils and pleasures of aging gracefully while slaying stereotypes (the first three installments are here:1, 2, and 3). After a series of significant injuries – the most recent a severely torn shoulder – Kelly was forced to bow out of an upcoming trip to Patagonia with fellow climbing…
Kelly Cordes
4 min Read
Fighting Forty (Part 3): A Severely Torn Shoulder
Today we've got Part 3 in Kelly Cordes' series about the bout of injuries he's experienced this past year (here's the links to check out part 1 and 2). His most recent setback, a severely torn shoulder, happened shortly before his scheduled departure for a climbing trip to Patagonia. Part 3 brings us the details…
Today we've got Part 3 in Kelly Cordes' series about the bout of injuries he's experienced this past year (here's the links to check out part 1 and 2). His most recent setback, a severely torn shoulder, happened shortly before his scheduled departure for a climbing trip to Patagonia. Part 3 brings us the details…
3 min Read
Fighting Forty (Part 2): Surgery Day
Today we've got Part 2 in Kelly Cordes' series about the bout of injuries he's experienced this past year (part 1 is here). His most recent setback, a severely torn shoulder, happened shortly before his scheduled departure for Patagonia. Kelly was helping Tommy and Becca Caldwell pack for departure last week – instead of joining…
Today we've got Part 2 in Kelly Cordes' series about the bout of injuries he's experienced this past year (part 1 is here). His most recent setback, a severely torn shoulder, happened shortly before his scheduled departure for Patagonia. Kelly was helping Tommy and Becca Caldwell pack for departure last week – instead of joining…
3 min Read
Fighting Forty (Part 1): Myths, Excuses, and Realities
It's tough to say who's been getting more exercise lately, Kelly Cordes or his insurance policy. TCL regulars might remember his recent injury, a dislocation he wrote about back in October. As the surgery date approaches, Kelly's found himself in a pensive mood. Today we offer the first in a multi-part series where our hero…
It's tough to say who's been getting more exercise lately, Kelly Cordes or his insurance policy. TCL regulars might remember his recent injury, a dislocation he wrote about back in October. As the surgery date approaches, Kelly's found himself in a pensive mood. Today we offer the first in a multi-part series where our hero…
3 min Read
Lynn Hill’s Tips: Traversing Techniques
The weather was so beautiful the other day that I decided to visit one of my favorite local traverses up on Flagstaff (Boulder, CO) called the Monkey Traverse. On this long, overhanging band of rock, I choreographed my own variation that I call Lynnie’s Low Down since it eliminates all the good holds on the…
The weather was so beautiful the other day that I decided to visit one of my favorite local traverses up on Flagstaff (Boulder, CO) called the Monkey Traverse. On this long, overhanging band of rock, I choreographed my own variation that I call Lynnie’s Low Down since it eliminates all the good holds on the…
Lynn Hill
3 min Read
Lynn Hill on Motivation
I was recently asked a series of questions on the topic of motivation. There are many ways to interpret the word, but by any definition, I don’t think I lack it. What I lack most of all is time. I often have obligations that get in the way of being able to get out to…
I was recently asked a series of questions on the topic of motivation. There are many ways to interpret the word, but by any definition, I don’t think I lack it. What I lack most of all is time. I often have obligations that get in the way of being able to get out to…
Lynn Hill
2 min Read
Lynn Hill on Setting Realistic Goals
I’ve found that the process of setting goals and the accompanying list of tasks “to do” in order to accomplish the goal, is essential in reinforcing my intents and purposes. Virtually every motivation guidebook includes at least one chapter about the proper organization of one’s tasks and goals. It is usually suggested that it is…
I’ve found that the process of setting goals and the accompanying list of tasks “to do” in order to accomplish the goal, is essential in reinforcing my intents and purposes. Virtually every motivation guidebook includes at least one chapter about the proper organization of one’s tasks and goals. It is usually suggested that it is…
Lynn Hill
2 min Read
Popular searches