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Performance-Related Rock Climbing Research from 2017: The Beta Angel Research Project

All the new cutting-edge research on climbing from 2017. (You probably need a few advanced degrees to understand everything in these papers, but even a layman can get a lot of great information here!)

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The Beta Angel Research Project is a new website which launched in May of this year.  The website’s purpose is to inspire more rock climbing research, provide a platform for new ideas, translate research into practical application, and provide a view into the academic side of the climbing community.  To further this vision, the Project is summarizing and categorizing research to make it more available to athletes, coaches, researchers and climbing geeks. Some of this research is mundane, some of it is novel, and some of it is groundbreaking.  While Beta Angel provides some of our own thoughts, we leave it to you to form your own opinions and ultimately lead future conversations about the practicality of the 2017 research and the research to come.

2017 was a good year for climbing research: the work from more than two dozen researchers was brought together across 18 chapters in a book entitled “The Science of Climbing and Mountaineering.”  It’s a little expensive but a must have for the nerds of science and climbing. Separately, other research was done last year to push the science of performance climbing. While not exhaustive, the 33 research summaries below represent a diverse cross-section of climbing research on sports psychology, biomechanics, kinesiology, injury, youth, bioenergetics, route preview and more.

Without boring you too much, the following is a highlight of some of the articles: the year 2017 saw several studies build off a strong foundation of other studies, including a highly-recommended article on preserving energy in climbing measured through the use of space-related, and time-related measures of “fluency” in movement, and another article comparing some of those same measures of climbing economy to strategies in route preview.  Injury research continued to dominate, including several new studies on pulley injuries, one of which used a crimp position in an MRI for better diagnostics, and a second describing the use of taping, braces, and surgery. A survey seeking to collect wholly new types of information sought to identify how often a climber is referred to a specialist (it’s a lot!), and factors affecting return to climbing (put away your smokes).

Additionally, novel methods were used in papers such as the Fryer articles on hemodynamic (blood flow) kinetics (chemical reactions); they’re giving us a new appreciation for aerobic capacity and the ever-present debate between neural adaptation (strength gains with limited to no muscle size increase) and hypertrophy (strength gains with muscle size increase).  Researchers also experimented with training protocols involving the rate of force development (RFD), a method of measuring what climbers traditionally have referred to as “contact strength” and different from the more traditional methods of measuring finger strength, such as maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). Additionally, with past research highlighting a growing percentage of injuries including the shoulders, researchers in 2017 paid attention to shoulder repair and found an association with gender. Another study sought to answer whether temperature effects finger strength or finger endurance. Finally, an article on bouldering nutrition was both open access (always a plus!) and easy to digest.

Foreshadowing 2018, injury research is already shaping up to continue its reign as a dominant area of rock climbing research.  Nevertheless, the International Rock Climbing Research Congress will hold its final meeting prior to the 2020 Olympics in July in Chamonix, France.  The work by Seifert on an “ecological dynamics framework” which looks at the relationship of information and movement will be a keynote at the conference and has significant potential for building training paradigms around uncertainty.

The Beta Angel Research Project will be at the meeting in Chamonix, eager to learn from the best researchers in climbing. On a more personal note, 2018 will see the Project begin experimenting with a handful of ideas to bring the practicality of climbing research to light.

– Taylor at the Beta Angel Research Project

The role of the Cerebellum in rock climbing

Author: Lin CY, Kuo SH | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: A letter to the editor rather than a paper, the authors challenge the connection between coordinated motor performance of the body and the cerebellum (a part of the brain which facilitates muscle contraction timing and precision) in the brain by reporting on a single case study involving an individual with a damaged cerebellum who is relatively good at rock climbing, having won the gold medal for his category at the Climbing Adaptive National Championships in the United States, but poor on traditional measures associated with normal human movement,.  The authors provide alternative theories for this disconnect, including compensation by another part of the brain, as well as distinctions between horizontal (walking) and vertical (climbing) movement. In their study of video of the individual crawling and climbing, the authors suggest that the stability produced by the movement of four limbs over two requires less “cerebellar-dependent coordination”.

Reference: J Neurol Sci. 2017 Dec 15;383:158-160

Tags: Sports Psychology; the Interaction of Mind and Body

The effect of cold ambient temperatures on climbing-specific finger flexor performance

Author: K.C. Phillips, B. Noh, M. Gage, T. Yoon | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers tested the effect of cold and neutral ambient temperatures on the maximum finger strength and finger endurance until failure of 12 rock climbers averaging 5.10c redpoint.  Cold conditions appear to matter less for maximum finger strength than they do for holding on for longer periods.

Reference: Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Aug;17(7):885-893.

Tags: Biomechanics; Repeaters (intermittent contractions)

Rock climbing and acute emotion regulation in patients with major depressive disorder in the context of a psychological inpatient treatment: a controlled pilot trial

Author: M. Kleinstauber, M. Reuter, N. Doll, AJ Fallgatter | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers tested the effect of two exercises, a rock climbing exercise and a relaxation exercise, on 40 individuals with depression.  The study found that the rock climbing group had better outcomes in terms of their depression, their positive and negative emotional states, and emotional coping ability after the exercise. One qualification of the study is that participants could choose which group they participated in.

Reference: Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2017 Aug 16;10:277-281

Tags: Sports Psychology; the Interaction of Mind and Body

Rock climbing related bone marrow edema of the hand: a follow-up study

Author: C. Lutter, T. Hochholzer, T. Bayer, V. Schöffl | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: The researchers studied cases of hand and wrist injury in 31 climbers averaging between 5.10d and 5.14c.  They found bone bruising and classified them according to the area of the wrist, primarily in the bones of the palm and the bones just above the wrist.  The authors recommended avoidance of stress in all climbers, and the effects of the bone bruising lasted between 6 – 32 weeks. Most were classified with conservative treatment as having good outcomes, however 3 required surgery.

Reference: Clin J Sport Med. 2017 Jul 6.

Tags: Kinesiology; Injury

Sagittal Band, Boutonniere, and pulley injuries in the athlete

Author: LC Grandizio, JC Klena | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers looked at recent literature on injuries important to climbers, namely the “pulley” (a stabilizing tendon that holds a finger-pulling tendon to the finger bone) injury tendons which wrap around each finger.  They reviewed research on how to evaluate finger injuries, found new research on the pervasiveness of pulley injuries in the rock climbing community, the flexor tendon’s ability to pull away from the bone (called bowstringing), contradictory research on which pulleys are more important to “bowstringing”, and reviewed two different approaches to fixing torn pulley tendons.

Reference: Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2017 Mar; 10(1): 17–22.

Tags: Kinesiology; Injury

Ultrasound evaluation of stress injuries and physiological adaptations in the fingers of adolescent competitive rock climbers

Author: K. Garcia, D. Jaramillo, E. Rubesova | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers evaluated 20 male/female climbers divided up into 3 different levels of climbing and compared them to 6 male/female non-climbers using different types of radiographic imaging, and a questionnaire.  The climbers were divided up based on: (1) climbing grade, (2) use of supplemental finger exercises, (3) number of years climbing, and (4) hours per week spent climbing/training. The authors suggest that climbing results in adaptive changes in the fingers of young climbers but that these adaptive changes also involve the potential for stress injuries. The authors also suggested that there are both advantages and disadvantages in the use of MRI imaging over Ultrasound imaging.

Reference: Pediatr Radiol. 2018 Mar;48(3):366-373

Tags: Kinesiology; Injury; Youth Specific Studies

Analysis of relations between spatiotemporal movement regulation and performance of discrete actions reveals functionality in skilled climbing

Author: D. Orth, G. Kerr, K. Davids, L. Seifert | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers looked at how climbers adapt to routes.  They discuss the state of the science to date regarding spatial (such as center of mass movement across a route) and temporal (such as quantifying time performing an action) indicators of climbing fluency and attempt to integrate them.  They specifically seek to relate climbing actions with whether they increase or decrease measures of climbing efficiency. Beta-Angel note: There are too many gems in this one for me to attempt to summarize a conclusion.  Thankfully it’s open source! This article should be required reading for anyone interested in the research behind climbing movement economy.  It also has significant practical application.

Reference: Front Psychol. 2017; 8: 1744.

Tags: Kinesiology; studies of human movement

Ankle Fracture Associated with Rupture of the Achilles Tendon: Case Report and Review of the Literature

Author: M. Elmajee, A. Rafee, T. Williams | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers examined a case study of a rare combination of Achilles tendon rupture and ankle (Medial Malleolus) fracture.  The rupture was initially missed and only identified during surgery, later confirmed with ultrasound and MRI. Reported patterns (a fall from height) make this combination of injury more likely to happen in climbing.  Doctors recommend a thorough clinical assessment of musculoskeletal and neurovascular structure in such instances.

Reference: J Foot Ankle Surg. 2017 Nov – Dec;56(6):1320-1322.

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

The role of physique, strength and endurance in the achievements of elite climbers

Author: M. Ozimek, et al. | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: The authors looked at anthropometric as well as strength and endurance differences for both fingers and arms between a group of elite climbers (8c) and a group of advanced climbers (8a).  Finger strength and endurance, as well as arm pulling endurance, were statistically different between the two groups. Arm strength was not. The only statistically significant anthropometric differences between the two groups was calf size.

Reference: PLoS One. 2017 Aug 3;12(8):e0182026

Tags: Kinesiology; Anthropometry; Biomechanics; Finger Strength

Differences in forearm strength, endurance, and hemodynamic kinetics between male boulderers and lead rock climbers

Author: S. Fryer, et al. | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers tested forearm strength, aerobic ability, endurance, and volume in 13 male boulderers, 10 sport climbers, and 10 non-climbers.  Multiple interesting results came out of this study, two that are noteworthy include: forearm maximum strength was both: (a) greater than lead climbers and may be due to (b) developing the connection between the brain and the muscle (neural adaptation) rather than increasing muscle size (hypertrophy).  Both boulderers and lead climbers have a greater aerobic ability than non-climbers, suggesting a notable contribution from the aerobic energy system across both disciplines.

Reference: Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Oct;17(9):1177-1183

Tags: Biomechanics; Finger Strength; Bioenergetics; Energy System Responses

Four weeks of finger grip training increases the rate of force development and the maximal force in elite and world-top ranking climbers

Author: G. Levernier and G. Laffaye | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: The researchers measured “Rate of Force Development” (RFD – similar to how fast you can create force) in multiple finger grip positions on a group of French National Bouldering Team members undertaking an RFD training protocol and a national team group not under-taking the protocol.  Measurement occurred at two points: the initial change in force (100-200 milliseconds into the contraction) and a later change in force (95% of maximum). The protocol approximates maximal sustained grip training on one hand for 6 seconds to failure, using individualized hold depths between 25 mm and 6 mm for both hands and for two grip positions: the sloper grip and the half-crimp.  Training had an impact on the initial change but not on the later change in force, suggesting that it increased the brain-muscle connection but not the underlying structure of the muscle. On a practical note, the researchers suggest that changes in RFD may be transferable across grip positions, suggesting it may not be necessary to develop RFD in the full-crimp grip position to see gains.  Beta-Angel note: hangboarding for contact strength!  Stay safe my friends.

Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Sep 19

Tags: Biomechanics; Contact Strength; Finger Strength; Bioenergetics; Energy System Responses

Functional and sports-specific outcome after surgical repair of rotator-cuff tears in rock climbers

Author: M. Simon, D. Popp, C. Lutter, V. Schöffl | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers assessed 12 rock climbers with both chronic and acute rotator cuff (shoulder) injuries for their ability to come back to the sport of climbing after surgery.  They found that arthroscopic (minimally invasive surgery) repair generally provides a good outcome [all climbers had started climbing by re-evaluation (defined as 27 +/- 12 months), but only 5 had reached pre-surgery climbing ability] toward returning to climbing, and that it’s slightly better in cases of acute injury than in cases of chronic injury.

Reference: Wilderness Environ Med. 2017 Dec;28(4):342-347

Tags: Kinesiology; Injury

An uncommon location of black heels in a free climbing instructor

Author: A. Tammaro, F. Magri, E. Moliterni, FR Parisella, M. Mondello, S. Persechino | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers note a case of a climbing instructor who developed black spots on his feet.  They confirmed that the case was benign, and that the atypical location of “black heels” was likely due to the configuration of climbing shoes which have a soft sole.  However, they recommend consulting with a doctor to remove any doubt if others are afflicted with similar black spots. Beta-Angel note: this research will not help you heel hook, but it may cause you to check your heels regularly… no we’re not freaking out unnecessarily.

Reference: Int Wound J. 2018 Apr;15(2):313-315

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

Hemodynamic and cardiorespiratory predictors of sport rock climbing performance

Author: S. Fryer, D. Giles, IG Palomino, A. de la O Puerta, VE Romero | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: The authors of this paper sought to learn how much of sport climbing performance can be explained by: (1) two predictors of forearm aerobic capacity: local (forearm specific) aerobic ability and forearm recovery, and (2) one general aerobic capacity indicator of the whole body on a treadwall. The authors found that both forearm aerobic capacity and general aerobic ability on a treadwall were associated with greater red-point performance, and collectively explained 67.1% of the variance in red-point ability. Beta-Angel note: the authors note an interest in determining whether these are adaptations caused by climbing or pre-requisites already in the climbing, and we appreciate that the authors don’t automatically assume an answer.

Reference: J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Mar 13

Tags: Bioenergetics; energy system responses

Descriptive epidemiology, medical evaluation, and outcomes of rock climbing injuries

Author: JM McDonald, AM Henrie, M. Teramoto, E. Medina, SE Willick | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers conducted a survey of 553 males and 155 females on to understand injury patterns by type of injury and to identify healthcare provider patterns for climbers, and also identify issues with returning to climbing. In addition to confirming injury rates from other studies, the authors found that 80.1% of all climbers who seek medical treatment for an injury get referred to a specialist, half of all climbers were not fully healed when returning to climbing, and a similar percentage developed chronic pain after injury, and the factors affecting return to climbing were: smoking, fractures, age, and surgery.

Reference: Wilderness Environ Med. 2017 Sep;28(3):185-196.

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

MRI sport-specific pulley injury

Author: MN Hoff, TD Greenberg | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: The researchers tested a novel climbing-specific crimp position using an MRI in a single individual in order to determine the MRI’s efficacy in measuring the bone to tendon distance (BTD), a traditional measure associated with diagnosing pulley (a stabilizing tendon that holds a finger-pulling tendon to the finger bone) injury injuries.  The technique identified the BTD as 1.5 mm (which is less than 2 mm – the distance used to indicate a weakened pulley) across 3 images; one image of a relaxed crimp and two images of a stress crimped position. The authors note a wide range of benefits (e.g. outcome of surgery; rehab, etc.) to using a climbing-specific grip position using a relaxed and stressed method.

Reference: Skeletal Radiol. 2017 Oct 10

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

Pulley injuries in rock climbers: hand therapy clinical application

Author: L. Algar, M. Moschetto | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: The authors outline how to conservatively treat rock climbing pulley (a stabilizing tendon that holds a finger-pulling tendon to the finger bone) injuries.  Specifically, they summarize the two mechanisms identified to date which reduce the distance between the tendon and the bone. This effect protects the pulley tendon. They are: (1) the H-taping method developed by Schöffl and his colleagues, and (2) the pulley protection orthosis (brace) developed by Schneeberger and Schweizer.

Reference: J Hand Ther. 2017 Oct 14

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

Flexor tendon pulley injuries in rock climbers

Author: EA King, JR Lien | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Authors reviewed the state of pulley (a stabilizing tendon that holds a finger-pulling tendon to the finger bone) injury literature and provide recommendations regarding diagnosis, therapy, and surgical technique.  They recommend the use of dynamic ultrasound for diagnosis; conservative therapy (time off, splinting, taping/bracing) for a single pulley injury and surgical reconstruction for multiple pulley injuries (while noting cases of successful conservative management of multiple pulley injuries), including the author’s preferred surgical method: a graft with three loops for the A2 (closer to the palm) and a graft with a single loop for the A4 (nearer the tip of the finger).

Reference: Hand Clin. 2017 Feb;33(1):141-148

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

An ecological dynamics framework for the acquisition of perceptual-motor skills in climbing

Author: L. Seifert, D. Orth, C. Button, E. Brymer, K. Davids | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: A chapter from a book entitled Extreme Sports Medicine describes how climbers are influenced or “constrained” by certain aspects of their environment, such as task constraints (e.g. preview of the route and safety demands), environmental constraints (e.g. wall slope, hold texture, etc.), and individual constraints (e.g. ability level, anthropometric factors).  Specifically, they describe how uncertainty within the climbing environment impacts the psychology (mind-related) and physiology (body-related) of climbers and how the athlete’s exploration of his/her environment is related to performance. The authors suggest that success in performance is a constantly shifting, very individualized adaptation to the athlete’s environment that can be impacted by a feedback loop which constantly looks for more information and opportunities for action and translates them into movement.  Beta-Angel note: One of the more interesting aspects of this chapter is a “practical application” section, which amongst other things, suggests the importance of making training mimic the uncertainty and mindset of performance.  The authors note that a major challenge involves setting up the ability to “efficiently [explore] in a manner that manages the dangers of performing in unpredictable contexts.” The practical potential of creating a learning paradigm centered not only around the efficiency of what you already know, but the effectiveness of exploration when presented with an unfamiliar environment, deserve considerable thought and further research.

Reference: Chapter from book Extreme Sports Medicine pp 365-382

Tags: cognitive-motor learning; learning; sports psychology; interaction of mind and body

Survey of hand and upper extremity injuries among rock climbers

Author: CE Nelson, GM Rayan, DI Judd, K. Ding, JA Stoner | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Authors surveyed 397 climbers in order to identify and compare injuries between males and females.  The authors found that females were both more likely to report shoulder injuries than males and also more likely to report surgery.  In a literature review, the authors noted that other studies found an association between females and shoulder injuries, especially in some upper body sports (water polo, martial arts, tennis) and that this is due to instability and weakness around specific shoulder stability muscles such as the periscapular (trapezius, rhomboids, pectoralis minor, etc.) muscles and the rotator cuff. Beta-Angel note: the authors note that the shoulder injury reporting was separate from the surgery reporting, suggesting the two can’t be taken together.

Reference: Hand (N Y). 2017 Jul;12(4):389-394.

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

The effect of potential fall distance on hormonal response in rock climbing

Author: J. Balas, D. Giles, L. Chrastinova, K. Karnikova, J Kodejska, A. Hlavackova, L. Vomacko, N. Draper | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers measured the concentration of a variety of hormones (associated with “fight or flight” effect) before and after climbing in two different groups of climbers: in one group, the climbers clipped all of the bolts available on a route, and in the other groups, the climbers skipped every other bolt. The group that clipped half of the bolts saw a bigger increase in concentration of all hormones (except cortisol, which did not peak until later) measured compared to the group that clipped every bolt.

Reference: J Sports Sci. 2017 May;35(10):989-994.

Tags: sports psychology; the interaction of mind and body; human interaction with the environment

Motivational orientation and risk taking in elite winter climbers: A qualitative study

Author: G. Jones, J. Milligan, D. Llewellyn, A. Gledhill, MI Johnson | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Jones et al. examined the experiences of elite winter climbers to understand their motivation for risk-taking behavior.  This qualitative study suggests that climbers pursue risk taking behavior as a result of a choice partially associated with the success of others, and partially associated with their own personal desire to master themselves as well as the identified goal.

Reference: International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Vol. 15, Issue 1 (2017)

Tags: sports psychology; human interaction with the environment

Role of route previewing strategies on climbing fluency and exploratory movements

Author:  L. Seifert, R. Cordier, D. Orth, Y. Courtine, JL Croft | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers tested eight inexperienced and ten experienced climbers on a route for the effect of 4 previewing strategies on climbing technique (specifically “fluency”).  The strategies involved sequencing in small chunks, or blocks, zigzagging from left to right, ascending from bottom to top, and fragmentary viewing across different sections. Fluency is a mix of spatial (exploratory vs. performance-related movements), and time-related (immobility amount) measures, and a combination of the two (jerk of the hips).  Authors ultimately found multiple conclusions: a role for route preview in (a) reducing anxiety, (b) use of holds in order to figure out potential opportunities for action, and (c) how to chain movements together. They also found a relationship between preview for a shorter period of time and greater fluency (specifically the “hip jerk” measure). Additionally, the more complex route preview strategies (block sequencing and zigzag) were associated with maintaining a stationary position. Beta-Angel note: The amount of conclusions in this article defies a short summary.  I recommend a close read.

Reference: PLoS ONE 12(4): e0176306 (2017)

Tags: Sports psychology; route preview; kinesiology; studies of human movement

Rock Climbing for Promoting Physical Activity in Youth

Author: SR Siegel, SM Fryer | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers reviewed nine articles on youth climbing and health-related fitness.   They found that climbing was not adequate at recreational levels to promote aerobic fitness in children unless through a structured session, but it is beneficial for muscular strength and endurance, and good for providing bone-strengthening exercises.  The reviewers found that in general, a lack of good research and a low number of studied participants may be contributing to the lack of support for climbing in schools.

Reference: American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Vol. 11, Issue 3 (2017)

Tags: Youth specific studies; sports psychology

Physiological responses during two climbing tests with different hold types

Author: Michail L Michailov, Robert Rokowski, Tomasz Ręgwelski, Robert Staszkiewicz, Lee E Brown, Zbigniew Szygula | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Investigators measured the differences in heart rate, oxygen consumption, and blood lactate (a byproduct of the body’s use of simple sugars formed in association with muscular fatigue, often associated with being “pumped”) across two different tilts of a hold, called slants.  The “slant” of a hold appears to correlate with higher spikes in peak (but not average or maximal) oxygen consumption and heart rate. The authors suggest heart rate, oxygen consumption, and lactate can be used for performance evaluation but not as intensity indicators. Beta-Angel note: our access doesn’t include this article and we may not have interpreted the abstract correctly.  If someone with access can get it and summarize better we would appreciate it.

Reference: International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2017.  Vol 12, Issue 2

Tags: bioenergetics; energy system responses

Nutritional considerations for bouldering

Author: E. Smith, R. Storey, M. Ranchordas  | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers go over the requirements of boulderers as well as the potential implications of both (a) macro-nutrients, primarily protein and carbohydrates, as well as (b) specific nutritional supplemental such as caffeine, Beta-Alanine, Nitrate, and Creatine.  The authors recommend a balance between the improvement of performance using nutrition and needs of boulderers including: muscle development, energy system efficiency, and an evidence-based approach to considerations of weight loss. Beta-Angel note: Open Access + readable = worth the read.

Reference: Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive

Tags: nutrition; bioenergetics

Determining the Impact of Anthropometric Factors on Rock Climbing Performance

Author: RT Mitchell  | Year: 2017

Summary/Results:  The authors collected anthropometric information and had 14 recreational climbers climb three different rock walls (easy, medium, hard) which were measured for average distance achieved and total attempts made and then correlated to anthropometric data (age, height, weight, % fat, BMI) as well as tests for push-up, sit-up, pull-up, vertical jump ability and sit/reach ability.  While BMI was the best predictor of climbing, this analysis shows that different attributes mattered differently based on the difficulty of the wall. While the easy wall was considered too easy to draw conclusions, the medium wall was associated with general fitness like vertical jump, percent fat, and age, but with the hard wall, age was the most significant factor.

Reference: MSU Graduate Theses. 2970.  2017

Tags: theses; anthropometry

Differences in Oxygenation Kinetics between the Dominant and Nondominant Flexor Digitorum Profundus in Rock climbers

Author: D. Giles, VE Romero, I. Garrido, A. de la O Puerta, K. Stone, S. Fryer | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers assessed the time to recovery of one of two types of finger flexor tendons (long tendon that controls movement in the fingers) in 28 sport climbers who climb between 5.10c and 5.13b.  The authors found significant recovery differences between individuals, and theorize that better oxygenation is associated with the muscle’s ability to deliver and use oxygen, which may in turn be due to adaptations in capillaries (thin, branching blood vessels that convey oxygen, nutrients and wastes to and from tissue), such as increased density and the ability to filter wastes. Beta-Angel note: the war between the ARCers and the ARC-nots continues.

Reference: Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017 Jan;12(1):137-139.

Tags: bioenergetics; energy system responses

The effects of high resistance-few repetitions and low resistance-high repetitions resistance training on climbing performance

Author: E. Hermans, V. Andersen, AH Saeterbakken | Year: 2017

Summary/Results:  Researchers tested the impact of two experimental protocols: a high-resistance, low-repetition protocol vs. a low-resistance, high-repetition protocol in low- and intermediate-grade climbers over the course of ten weeks.  The study also included a group that climbed/trained as “usual”, and all groups had their training controlled for intensity. While both experimental protocols showed improvement in climbing performance in spite of a 50% reduction in climbing, the improvement was not statistically significant.  Beta-Angel note: We’re particularly interested in how this related to the control (“usual” climbing) group.  However, we don’t have access. Note, the same author who completed “Effect of maximal- and local muscular endurance strength training on climbing performance and climbing-specific strength in recreational climbers: a randomized controlled trial” was also responsible for this study.  More information on the protocols and results would be helpful. Please contact us.

Reference: Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 May;17(4):378-385.

Tags: Biomechanics; limbs; finger strength

Spinal range of motion and plantar pressure in sport climbers.

Author: Hawrylak A, Chromik K, Ratajczak B, Barczyk-Pawelec K, Demczuk-Włodarczyk E | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers tested both (1) lumbar (lower back) and thoracic (upper back) range of motion, and (2) differences in pressure between the front and rear of the foot in 30 sport climbers and 30 physical education students.  The lower back was tested in terms of bending forward and backward, rotating, and lateral- or side-bending. Researchers found that compared to the 30 students, sport climbers had (in general) better range of motion. Additionally, sport climbers showed greater average pressure toward the front of the foot. Beta-Angel note: the authors suggest that ROM was worse in sport climbers for “extension, rotation, and lateral thoracic flexion” – however, this leaves only flexion (bending forward) across both the upper and lower back, and lateral lumbar flexion (bending sideways through the lower back), which suggests a more nuanced picture regarding the overall range of motion.  Clarification may be helpful.

Reference: Acta Bioeng Biomech. 2017;19(2):169-173.

Tags: biomechanics, trunk; kinesiology; anatomy; studies of human movement; anthropometry

Sport Climbing: medical considerations for this new Olympic discipline

Author: C. Lutter, Y. El-Sheikh, I. Schöffl, V. Schöffl | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: This is a commentary by several leading climbing injury researchers on the medical considerations of climbing given its inclusion within the 2020 Olympics.  The authors discuss some of the newer trends in climbing injuries, such as heel hooks and bone marrow edema (excess watery fluid collection in certain areas of the body) injuries, and make two recommendations.  The recommendations are: (1) closer sports-specific medical supervision of elite athletes, and (2) monitoring of training and competition facilities for more careful route setting, attention to more ergonomic, less injury inducing hold use, and age-specific training programs.

Reference: Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jan;51(1):2-3.

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

Pregnant Women in Sport Climbing – Is there a Higher Risk for Preterm Birth?

Author: J. Drastig, D. Hillebrandt, W. Rath, T. Küpper | Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Researchers assessed 32 female climbers using a self-report online questionnaire to determine whether pre-term birth is more likely in the climbing community than in the general population.  Two women in the study reported a pre-term birth, and the study discusses the information provided by the questionnaire for these two subjects as well as the overall population. Based on this survey, the authors do not see climbing as being a risk factor for pre-term birth.

Reference: Z Geburtshilfe Neonatol. 2017 Feb;221(1):25-29.

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

To be active through indoor-climbing: an exploratory feasibility study in a group of children with cerebral palsy and typically developed children

Author: MS Christensen, T. Jensen, CB Voigt, JB Nielsen, J. Lorentzen| Year: 2017

Summary/Results: Authors tested the impact of a 3-week climbing program on two groups: kids with and without cerebral palsy (CP).  The program assessed measures of physical activity, climbing performance, functional motor tests, physiological hand strength and speed tests, tests which measures how well the brain connects to the muscles, ankle joint tests, and psychological tests.  While finger strength did not improve over the course, motor improvements included a sit-to-stand test, range of motion in the ankle, a precision test, and a rate of force production test (in the least affected hand) all showed improvement in the CP kids.  The authors attribute the motor improvement to increased connection between the brain and muscle.

Reference: BMC Neurol. 2017 Jun 15;17(1):112.

Tags: Kinesiology; injury

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