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An investigation of pathogens on rock climbing mat materials

The International Federation of Sport Climbing reports that 44.5 million individuals rock climb regularly and that this community is growing as a result of rock climbing's debut in the upcoming 2020 Olympics. Increasing anecdotal evidence demonstrates that small cuts and abrasions may become infected upon exposure to different materials commonly found in rock climbing gyms, such as climbing holds, mats, and padding. We therefore seek funding to perform pathogen testing at the Student Life Center’s Summit Climbing Gym and local industry gyms (Momentum and The Front).

This proposal brings together researchers with varying expertise from the College of Engineering (Profs. Taylor Sparks and Ramesh Goel), Marriott Library (Assistant Librarian Tallie Casucci), and School of Medicine (Senior Research Scientist Abby Pulsipher). We established this Team based on a shared interest in rock climbing and its affect on public health at the UofU.

A variety of gym mat and padding materials will be swabbed and subjected to microbial sequencing, aiding in the discovery of which materials may be pathogen-resistant and remediation methods to mitigate infections from these surfaces, as well as the design of new pathogen-resistant materials. Ultimately, this project will develop and transfer new knowledge about pathogens and rock climbing surfaces, improving the health of climbers and other athletes at the UofU and beyond.


Tallie Casucci
Marriott Library
Marriott Library
Project Owner

Abigail Pulsipher
School of Medicine
Otolaryngology Division

Taylor Sparks
College of Engineering
Material Science and Eng

Project Info

Funded Project Amount

pathogens, infections, materials science, exercise equipment, climbing mats, rock climbing, antibiotic resistance

Project Status
Funded 2020
Last Updated: 5/21/21