Brachial artery characteristics and micro-vascular filtration capacity in rock climbers

Rock climbers perform repeated isometric forearm muscle contractions subjecting the vasculature to repeated ischaemia and distorted haemodynamic signals. This study investigated forearm vascular characteristics in rock climbers compared to healthy untrained controls. Eight climbers (CLIMB) (BMI; 22.3, s = 2.0 kg/m2, isometric handgrip strength; 46, s = 8 kg) were compared against eight untrained controls (CON) (BMI; 23.8, s = 2.6 kg/m2, isometric handgrip strength; 37, s = 9 kg). Brachial artery diameter and blood flow were measured, using Doppler ultrasound, at rest and following 5-mins ischaemia (peak diameter) and ischaemic exercise (maximal dilation) to calculate flow mediated dilation (FMD) and dilatory capacity (DC). Capillary filtration capacity was assessed using venous occlusion plethysmography. Resting (4.30, s = 0.26 vs. 3.79, s = 0.39 mm), peak (4.67, s = 0.31 vs. 4.12, s = 0.45 mm) and maximal (5.14, s = 0.42 vs. 4.35, s = 0.47 mm) diameters were greater (P < 0.05) in CLIMB than CON, respectively, despite no difference in FMD (9.2, s = 2.6 vs. 8.7, s = 2.9%). Peak reactive hyperaemic blood flow (1136, s = 504 vs. 651, s = 221 ml/min) and capillary filtration capacity (3.8, s = 0.9 vs. 5.2, s = 0.7 ml.min−1.mmHg−1.100 ml tissue−1 × 10−3) were greater (P < 0.05) in CLIMB compared to CON, respectively. Rock climbers exhibit structural vascular adaptation compared to untrained control participants but have similar vascular function. This may contribute to the enhanced ability of climbers to perform repeated isometric contractions.