First Advisor

Milan Sveboda

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH)






Risk-taking (Psychology), Athletes -- Attitudes, Rock climbing



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 89 p.)


Previous research examining high-risk sports participation has yielded discrepancies between the role assigned to risk and the perceptions of climbers regarding risk. Risk, as it applies to high-risk sport participation, has not been sufficiently defined in the literature. The current study sought to develop, by means of a grounded theory approach, a new, dynamic operational definition of risk as it applies to rock climbers, and to examine the role of risk management as a modifying factor in the perception of risk and its impact on motivation and participation. Nineteen subjects (twelve male and seven female) averaging 14.7 years of climbing experience were interviewed. A model for the processing of risk in high-risk sports participants is presented in which risk is perceived by the participant as operating on three levels: actual risk, assessed risk, and mental or perceived risk. The exposure to actual and assessed risk does not appear to be a goal of the climbers interviewed, but does provide meaning to decisions made by the participant, as well as defining limits and boundaries. Mental or perceived risk serves to provide a mental challenge to be overcome by the climber, and may provide a thrill or "adrenaline rush" that is sought out by some participants. The elimination of risk would change most participants' perceptions of climbing. Motivation would be negatively affected in most cases. The model presented describes a process of risk awareness, assessment, acceptance, mitigation, results, and consequences that is situation specific. The perception and assessment of risk varies from individual to individual, as well as across time. Individual climbers have a well defined risk threshold: a point at which the risk to which they are exposing themselves becomes too great and the decision will be made to reject risk. This threshold is stable and does not shift as the result of experience. It is suggested that future research which seeks to examine the role of risk in high-risk sports participation focus on the process by which risk is identified, evaluated, and accepted, as this will be of the most benefit to the participants.


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