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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 1999 March;39(1):71-3

language: English

Injury ­among cav­ers: results of a pre­lim­i­nary nation­al sur­vey

Ashford D. A. 1, Knutson R. S. 2, Sacks J. J. 3

1 Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Health and Human Services, US Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia;
2 National Speleological Society, Huntsville, AL;
3 Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC, US Department of Health and Human Services, US Public Health Service, Atlanta, Georgia, USA


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Background. To esti­mate the fre­quen­cy of and ­risk fac­tors for cav­ing-asso­ciat­ed inju­ries.
Methods. A stan­dard­ized ques­tion­naire cov­er­ing demog­ra­phics, cav­ing expo­sure, and inju­ry his­to­ry was dis­trib­ut­ed to all mem­bers of the National Speleological Society by inclu­sion in the month­ly news­let­ter.
Results. Of 9,532 mem­bers ­sent a ques­tion­naire, 301 respond­ed (3.2%). Respondents had an aver­age of 18 ­years of cav­ing expe­ri­ence, and 37% had sus­tained one or ­more inju­ries ­while cav­ing. Hypothermia was the ­most fre­quent inju­ry, fol­lowed by frac­tures, ani­mal ­bites, and con­cus­sions. The ­rate of inju­ry was ­about 1 per 1,990 ­hours in a ­cave. Injury ­rates for ­females ­were ­about ­twice ­those of ­males; old­er per­sons and ­those ­with ­more ­than 5 ­years of cav­ing expe­ri­ence ­seemed to ­have low­er inju­ry ­rates.
Conclusions. Many cav­ing inju­ries ­appear poten­tial­ly pre­vent­able. Proper tech­nique for ­safe climb­ing ­should be a ­part of explo­ra­tion train­ing. There is a ­need for prop­er belay­ing or rap­pel­ling for ­even ­short ­ascents or ­descents. Helmet use ­should be ­stressed, as ­should ade­quate pro­tec­tion ­from hypo­ther­mia.

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