A study from the University of Tennessee investigated whether or not rock climbing put the athletes at a higher risk for developing osteoarthritis.

“According to a 2006 study, rock climbers can develop increased bone thickness,” says Jessalynn Adam, MD, who specializes in primary care sports medicine with OrthoVirginia.

“This study demonstrated a greater cross-sectional area, and greater total width, due to subperiosteal bone deposition and remodeling related to climbing,” explains Dr. Adam.

“They found that this was related to high intensity mechanical stress and not repeated low intensity stress.”

Does this translate to bigger hands from rock climbing?

Well, for sure, it means larger or thicker bones  —  but would this necessarily cause the actual appendage to measure bigger, as in, longer fingers, greater finger diameter, greater palm width?

If playing piano could make hands bigger, wouldn’t serious rock climbing?

My mother began studying classical piano at a very young age.

She’s four inches shorter than me, yet her hands are larger than mine, and I have large ones relative to my height – not super large, but I’ve noticed that they are larger than other women my height or even several inches taller.

My mother’s finger span width is greater than mine. When we put our hands together at the palms, it’s obvious that hers are larger than mine.

Logic says this is from the decades of piano playing while her body was still growing. 

The study on rock climbers shows that the cortical bone thickness is increased in their fingers and hands.

And that rock climbers do not have a higher risk of osteoarthritis when compared to people who do not rock climb.

Dr. Adam specializes in the care of athletes and active individuals of all ages, offering prevention, diagnosis and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. Dr. Adam’s care focuses on muscle injuries and biomechanics. 
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.
Top image: Shutterstock/Photobac
Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2100343/