Parents of Climbing Children Should Take Heed

by Dr. Craig P. Smith Jun/2007
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+Xavier Ryan reaching at the Gunks, NY, 98 kbclick to enlarge
Climbing stresses your body. If you're an adult this isn't so much of a problem, but if you're an infant or adolescent, then in certain circumstance climbing can cause severe problems.

A recent review of the scientific literature pertaining to 'young climbers' has recently been published in the British Journal of Sports Science by Audry Morrison and Volker Schöffl (Br J Sports Med. 2007 May 22; [Epub ahead of print]) and it makes very interesting reading. Morrison and Schöffl define young climbers as those aged between 7-17. Their conclusions are based on a critical review of the scientific literature and some of their important conclusions and recommendations are reproduced below:

  • Climbers aged <16 should not undertake intensive finger strength training (especially campus boarding and excessive finger training) and cannot participate in international bouldering competitions.

  • A force producing a ligamentous tear in an adult is likely to incur more damage in a growing youngster

  • The final pubescent growth spurt is associated with an increased risk of injuries and physeal fractures.

  • Up to around age 12, children have a limited capacity to develop an adaptive metabolic response to specific training, but possess an accelerated ability for motor development. This suggests the emphasis of training should be on climbing an increased volume and diversity of climbing routes to improve fluency and mechanical efficiency of climbing techniques, as opposed to increasing intensity.

  • Wearing excessively restrictive climbing shoes is not recommended in growing feet to help prevent foot injuries and deformities. Regular record keeping of street wear and climbing shoe size may be a useful strategy up to a minimum age of 15.

  • Climbers should be educated in the importance of an appropriate diet and timing of this intake on health and performance.

  • The age at which a climber should specialise in climbing is unknown. Knowledgeable and qualified personnel should carefully monitor training. Where training intensity is increased, it should reflect safe and efficacious exercises for a given gender and biological age, independent of the competition calendar.

  • More research on young climbers is needed

    Clearly, parents of climbing children should take heed of these recommendations.

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