Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Sports Med. 2004 Oct-Nov;32(7):1688-94.

Radiographic changes in the hands and fingers of young, high-level climbers.

Author information

Department of Trauma/Orthopedic Surgery, Bamberg Hospital, Bamberg, Germany. <>



In the past few years, competition climbing has grown in popularity, and younger people are being drawn to the sport.


Although the radiographic changes in long-term climbers are known, there are little data available on young climbers. The question arises as to whether climbing at high levels at a young age leads to radiographic changes and possibly an early onset of osteoarthrosis in the finger joints.


Cross-sectional study.


Nineteen members of the German Junior National Team and 18 recreational climbers were examined clinically and through radiographs. For comparison, radiographs of 12 young nonclimbers (control group) were collected. Radiographs were evaluated using a standard protocol. For evaluation of the physiologic adaptation, the cortical thickness of the middle phalanx and the Barnett Nordin index were analyzed. The results were compared between the 3 groups and against radiographs of 140 long-term, experienced climbers.


Six climbers (32%) of the German Junior National Team presented a decreased range of motion for the small finger joints; none of the recreational climbers showed this decrease. In 47% of the German Junior National Team and 28% of the recreational climbers, stress reactions could be found: cortical hypertrophy (26% German Junior National Team, 11% recreational climbers), subchondral sclerosis (47% German Junior National Team, 6% recreational climbers), broadened base of the proximal interphalangeal joint (42% German Junior National Team, 28% recreational climbers), and broadened base of the distal interphalangeal joint (16% German Junior National Team, 0 recreational climbers). Signs of an early stage of osteoarthrosis were seen in 1 climber in each group. The control group showed no radiologic abnormalities. The Barnett Nordin index was 0.49 +/- 0.05 in German Junior National Team, 0.49 +/- 0.07 in recreational climbers, and 0.48 +/- 0.08 in the control group. There was no statistically significant difference on the Barnett Nordin index between the groups (German Junior National Team/recreational climbers: P = .89; German Junior National Team/control group: P = .58; recreational climbers/control group: P = .55).


Intensive training and climbing lead to adaptive reactions; nevertheless, osteoarthrotic changes are rare.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center