Rock Climbing Emergencies in the Austrian Alps: Injury Patterns, Risk Analysis and Preventive Measures
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
To elucidate patterns of and risk factors for acute traumatic injuries in climbers in need of professional rescue, a retrospective evaluation was performed of the Austrian National Registry of Mountain Accidents regarding rock climbing incidents over a 13-year timeframe from 2005 to 2018. From 2992 recorded incidents, 1469 were uninjured but in need of recovery, mainly when alpine climbing. Acute traumatic injuries (n = 1217) were often classified as severe (UIAA ≥ 3; n = 709), and commonly
... ), and commonly involved fractures (n = 566). Main injury causes were falls (n = 894) frequently preceded by rockfall (n = 229), a stumble (n = 146), a grip or foothold break-out (n = 143), or a belaying error (n = 138). In fatal cases (n = 140), multiple trauma (n = 105) or head injuries (n = 56) were most common, whereas lower extremity injuries (n = 357) were most common in severely injured patients. The risk for severe or fatal injuries increased with age and fall height when ascending or bouldering, during the morning hours, and when climbing without a helmet or rope. The case fatality rate was 4.7%, and the estimated total mortality rate was 0.003–0.007 per 1000 h of rock climbing. Acute traumatic injuries requiring professional rescue when rock climbing are often severe or fatal. Consequent use of a helmet when sport climbing, consistent use of a rope (particularly when ascending), proper spotting when bouldering, and proper training, as well as high vigilance when belaying are likely to help prevent such injuries.