Info for young climbers

Building a “bone bank”

Young climbers love to push their limits! And climbing is a fantastic sport to get involved in at a young age. We all know that the growing bodies hugely benefit from healthy diet and exercise, and it is important to understand the benefits that the sport offers developing bones in young climbers.

 Most of our bone density and strength is acquired by around the ages of 18 and 20, so the more bone tissue and mass kids can put away in their “bone bank” the longer their bones should last as they get older. This will help prevent fractures, osteoarthritis, and other ailments in later years.

It is important to train both muscles and bone properly when kids are growing and enrolling in a youth training program at your local climbing gym is a fantastic way to get professional advice on what you should or should not do as a young climber. Have a look at some of our suggested training routines here.

All sports are risky!

We know that all sports carry some risk of injury. In fact, that’s probably what makes them a bit more fun and exciting. Tennis, baseball, athletics and many other sports that involve repetitive impact on joints and bones can have adverse effects on growing bodies if the young athlete does not train safely.

Bouldering and rock climbing are no different, but other than falls and knocks there is a lesser-known, and often misunderstood risk for young climbers that comes from excessive strength and impact training.

Growth Plate injuries can occur when young athletes push a bit further than their growing bones can handle. This can be from performing dynamic or repetitive moves that involve high impact or weight bearing holds that induce stresses on the soft tissues in the bones. These injuries are not unique to climbing and are prevalent in football, baseball and other contact sports as well as high impact sports such as gymnastics.

It is crucially important that parents, trainers, and the athletes themselves are aware of these risks and address issues as soon as any symptoms appear. If ignored these injuries can cause long term damage and inhibit the growth of bones. In rock climbers this could be in the arms, wrists and fingers which are kind of important to a climber!

What are Growth Plates?

The growth plates are the areas of tissue near the ends of developing bones in children. It is this area that eventually hardens and determines the future length and form of the mature bones. Because they are soft in comparison to the rest of the bone, they are more prone to injury.

Growth Plates usually harden and close near the end of puberty and can be considered mature by the age of 18, but this can be earlier for girls than it is for boys.

What to look out for?

Symptoms of a growth plate injury include:

  • Persistent pain and tenderness after training or a sudden or overuse injury.
  • Deformity, warmth, or swelling at the end of a bone.
  • Changes in how the child bends their limb.
  • Inability to move, put pressure on, or bear weight on a limb because of pain.

What to do?

If you suspect that you or your child has an injury it is important to have a doctor examination and refrain from training until you are certain it is all clear.

How to prevent Growth Plate injuries?

Because all kids bodies are different and mature at different times and rates, it is best to be conservative in approach.

Having a good trainer and not over-exerting is the best way to learn how to climb properly and safely. But when climbing without a trainer it is important to warm up and stretch properly before a climb, not pushing oneself too hard and avoid extreme changes in activity.

Using the right equipment properly is also important. There are even exercises such as using campus boards that should be avoided by young climbers and holds such as crimps that should be limited.

What about Crux Gear?

Crux Gear holds should be used in moderation and never with excessive weights. It is recommended that growing kids never attach additional weights to their bodies when doing pull ups or other hanging exercises. Using the MagBoard or Hang Rocks should always be with open hand grips, never with a crimp.

It may be tempting to add a bit more weight to the gear because the fit makes it seem easier to hold, but please keep in mind all of the above when training and use smart common sense when loading up your training gear.

Sources:

https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/juvenile

https://adc.bmj.com/content/90/4/373

https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/growth-plate-injuries

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/growth-plates.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/growth-plate-fractures/symptoms-causes/syc-20351979

https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/conditions/sports-medicine-growth-plate-injuries

https://physivantage.com/blogs/news/youth-rock-climbing-overuse-injuries-and-prevention

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/should-u18s-use-campus-boards-finger-injuries