Schöffl, VR; Hochholzer, T; Imhoff, AB; Schöffl, I
Radiographic adaptations to the stress of high-level rock climbing in junior athletes: a 5-year longitudinal study of the german junior national team and a group of recreational climbers.
BACKGROUND: Radiographic adaptations and changes in adult climbers are a well-known fact, but few data are available for young climbers. HYPOTHESIS: Radiographic adaptations have been shown for highly active young climbers. The question arises whether these adaptations may lead to an early onset of osteoarthrosis in the fingers. STUDY DESIGN: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2. METHODS: Ten members of the German Junior National Team (GJNT; 21.0 +/- 1.6 years) and 10 recreational climbers (RC; 19.9 +/- 1.9 years) were examined using a standard questionnaire and radiographs of the hand. For comparison, radiographs of 12 young nonclimbers (control group [CG]) were evaluated. RESULTS: The climbing level of GJNT increased significantly during the 5-year evaluation period (P< .01) and was significantly higher than that of the RC (1999: P< .01, 2004: P< .01). There was no increase in finger contractures or finger joint capsular width during the 5 years. Stress reactions were found in 8 of 10 of GJNT (1999 and 2004) and increased in RC from 2 of 10 (1999) to 3 of 10 (2004). No osteoarthrotic changes were found in 2004. There was no significant difference for the Barnett-Nordin Index between GJNT, RC, and CG. Years of climbing (P< .01), participation in climbing competitions (P< .01), hours of training per week (P< .01), number of training units per week (P< .05), and climbing level (2004) (P< .01) were significant factors for development of radiographic stress reaction in all athletes (GJNT and RC). CONCLUSION: Intensive training and climbing leads to adaptive reactions such as cortical hypertrophy and broadened joint bases in the fingers. Nevertheless, osteoarthrotic changes are rare in young climbers. A longer follow-up is necessary to evaluate whether these adaptive stress reactions may lead to an early onset of osteoarthritis.