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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2011 September;51(3):497-505

language: English

Radiological changes and signs of osteoarthritis in the fingers of male performance sport climbers

Allenspach P. 1, Saupe N. 2, Rufibach K. 3, Schweizer A. 4

1 Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland;
2 Radiology Department, Balgrist University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland;
3 Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland;
4 Orthopaedic Department, Balgrist University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland


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AIM: The aim of this study was to investigate the radiological changes and signs of osteoarthritis in the fingers of performance sport climbers that felt to be from acute mechanical stress placed on the fingers and intense training regime over years.
METHODS: A total of 31 male sport climbers who were either strong rock climbers or former members of the Swiss climbing team, and 67 non-climbers participated in the study. Fisher’s exact test was used to compare the proportions of signs of osteoarthritis between climbers and non-climbers. For the evaluation of radiological changes, antero-posterior and lateral radiographs were taken of both hands. Distal interphalangeal (DIP) and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints of the fingers Dig. II-V on the antero-posterior radiographs were scored for signs of osteoarthritis using an atlas (Altman) method. Osteophytes at the DIP and PIP joints were also evaluated on lateral radiographs and compared to the findings on the antero-posterior radiographs.
RESULTS: According to the Kellgren-Lawrence method, 6 out of 31 climbers had evidence of clear signs of osteoarthritis in the fingers, whereas none of the non-climbers developed any signs of osteoarthritis (P≤0.001). Twenty-three climbers had definite signs of osteophytosis using antero-posterior radiographs compared to 31 climbers using lateral radiographs. Lateral radiographs have shown to be more accurate in finding, localizing and rating of osteophytes than antero-posterior radiographs.
CONCLUSION: Male climbers have more signs of osteoarthritis compared to male non-climbers at similar age. Development of osteophytes seems to be ordinary in every climber. Lateral radiographs are more accurate in diagnosing osteophytes in climbers than using traditional antero-posterior radiographs.

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allenspach.philippe@gmx.ch