Growth Plate Injuries In Youth Climbers

The popularity of rock climbing among young individuals has surged in recent years, leading to an increased incidence of finger stress epiphyseal fractures, which are the primary injury observed among youth climbers. These fractures commonly occur during puberty, a period when the growth plates (physis) in the fingers are particularly susceptible to damage.

Initially, there was very little research or information to support youth climbers with this injury. However, over the past few years, some excellent resource have been developed not only to educate youth climbers and their parents about growth plate fractures, but to also provide a rehabilitation framework.

See below for three great resources to help manage finger growth plate fractures in youth climbers:

Evaluation of a Diagnostic-Therapeutic Algorithm for Finger Epiphyseal Growth Plate Stress Injuries in Adolescent Climbers

This peer reviewed article by Schöffl et al. evaluates a diagnostic-therapeutic algorithm for finger epiphyseal growth plate stress injuries in adolescent climbers. They evaluated the management algorithm on 27 patients and it led to osseous union in all cases – meaning all patients who used it fully healed their bone. They discussed how effective treatment of epiphyseal growth plate stress injuries may include nonsurgical or surgical intervention, depending on the time course and severity of the injury. And suggested that further awareness of growth plate injuries is important to help prevent these injuries in the future.

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Returning to Climb after Epiphyseal Finger Stress Fracture

This peer reviewed paper by Meyers et al. outlines criteria to return back to climbing after a growth plate injury. It provides a step-by-step process to get youth climbers back to sport safely. The structured return-to-play protocol is specific to youth climbers and can be used by medical professionals and coaches to guide their athlete to gradually and safely return to sport.

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Growth Plate Injuries – A guide for climbers, coaches, and parents

This resource is a 6 page PDF developed by the The British Mountaineering Council and Great Britain Climbing. It outlines who is at risk for growth plate injuries, what causes them, signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.

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Resources compiled by Jennifer Yarin PT, DPT – Doctor of Physical Therapy: Climbing SIG Senior TA and Social Outreach Committee Chair

  • Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and the content is not intended for medical advice.

Learn More About Rock Climbing Injuries

Looking for more information on preventing and rehabilitating climbing injuries? Check out the book “Climb Injury-Free” and the “Rock Rehab Videos”

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