Is Bouldering Dangerous?

Is Bouldering Dangerous?

Activity Risk of light or medium injuries (0 low, 10 high) Risk of severe injuries (0 low, 10 high)
Indoor Bouldering 4 2
Outdoor Bouldering 8 6
Indoor Rock Climbing 3 3
Outdoor Rock Climbing 5 6
American Football 5 3
Mountain Biking 7 7
Motorcycle Riding 5 8
Soccer 4 2

Important: Indoor Bouldering is a lot less dangerous than Outdoor Bouldering

When we talk about how dangerous bouldering is, it’s important to see the difference between indoor and outdoor bouldering. While technically the same sport, with the same goals and techniques involved, outdoor bouldering is A LOT more dangerous.

Ina modern bouldering gym, indoor bouldering is not more dangerous than some other sports activities, with most injuries typical involving sprained or broken ankles or knee injuries. This is because the shock-absorbing mats in most modern gyms are incredibly effective. A fall of 6 to 9 feet on a mat inside a gym is not a big deal in most cases. Even if you land in an awkward position there is a high chance that you won’t injure yourself, they are that good. Take note: This obviously depends on the gym, and how good their gear is, but regulatory standards in most of western Europe and North America are pretty high.

But outdoor bouldering is a different beast: The falls are still low-height, but the impact energies are high because you have no thick shock-absorbing mats outdoors. When you boulder outdoors you usually land on either dirt, rock or grass, and even though boulderers have crash pads, these pads are not even close to the effectiveness of the mats inside a gym. And outdoors, you usually bring one or two of these mats, so depending on the boulder problem there is a high chance that when you fall you are actually missing the pad. And without a pad, every fall outdoors is basically a 6 to 10 feet fall to the ground. If you don’t know how to tuck and roll and fall correctly, there is a  VERY high chance of spraining or breaking an ankle or knee injuries. And some boulder problems leave you falling head or torso first, which is even worse. Outdoors you should ALWAYS boulder with someone to spot you.

Is Indoor Bouldering more Dangerous than Outdoor Rock Climbing?

Not at all. From all the climbing related activities, indoor bouldering is the safest and least dangerous. Falling heights are low, and shock absorbant mats are always taking in the main portion of the fall energy. Outdoor rock climbing is more dangerous than indoor bouldering, both in terms of the risk of medium or light injuries and also in terms of the risk of severe injuries.

Is Indoor Bouldering more Dangerous than Indoor Rock Climbing?

The chances to injure yourself lightly are higher when indoor bouldering, as you take falls on a regular base. And while the shock absorbing mats are working great, there is still a chance to sprain an ankle or break something if you fall very unfortunate. At the same time, the risk of light or medium injury in a rock climbing gym, where you are climbing with a rope, are smaller. But given that there are multiple fatal or severe accidents due to belaying errors and broken safety rules in rock climbing gym per year, the chances of severe injuries are higher.

This is because IF you fall in a rock climbing gym, and this fall happens to be combined with an error in the belaying, you typically fall higher than in a bouldering gym, and in contrast to a bouldering gym, there are usually no shock-absorbing mats on the ground. Thankfully, the risks in rock climbing gym are extremely low, as this german study showed (observing half a million visits to indoor rock climbing gyms), and you can mitigate and minimize the risk if you follow the proper belaying techniques.

Most of the logged accidents in the study where a combination of negligence on the belayers behalf and or failure to do partner checks and keeping an eye on each other all the time.

In terms of numbers: On every 1000 hours of climbing in a gym, there were.02 injuries. Which made indoor rock climbing safer than skiing, badminton or surfing – all these had higher rates of injuries. And in the study, most injuries where either minor or moderately severe, with no fatal accidents registered.