1. Finger injuries (often from repetitive strain)
Due to almost constant contact with rock, climbers’ fingers are more susceptible to injury than other limbs. There are three different kinds of finger injuries:
Collateral Ligament Strain: The collateral ligaments surround each finger joint and injury is most likely to occur when a climber is side-pulling with one hand and reaching for a hold with the other. Pain is isolated to the affected ligament and the injury can be treated with buddy taping (taping the injured finger above and below the joint to an adjacent finger).
A2 Pulley Injury: This is the most common finger problem and it’s caused by putting unexpected pressure on the hand. The climber may here a “pop” but it’s rarely very serious and can also be treated with buddy taping. Pully strains and tears account for 90% of injuries.
Flexor Tendon Tears: Tendons connect muscles and bones and are vital when climbing as they allow you to move your wrist and fingers. If a tendon stretches/tears, a climber may temporarily lose the flexibility of one or more fingers. A complete rupture would require surgery.
2. Knuckles stress fractures
Often caused by an increase in training as the knuckle has to endure more than it is used to. Pain and swelling will normally be isolated to the middle knuckle and the best treatment is to rest, especially from crimping (climbing using holds just big enough to be grasped by finger tips). If there is any pain when climbing you will need to rest for longer.
The action of climbing over-engages the pulling muscles (lats, biceps, forearms) whilst neglecting the pushing muscles (pectorals, triceps, anterior deltoids) therefore straining the tendons. A sign of tendonitis is aching elbows and shoulders. It can easily be prevented with simple exercises done regularly to balance muscles.
4. Tendon Sheaths
“Climber’s finger” occurs when a climber hooks one finger on a ledge to support their body, injuring the flexor tendon sheath. A sharp pain may be experienced and the climber may hear an audible “pop”. Large ruptures may require surgery. Stretching exercises prior to climbing can help to prevent this.
5. Fall related injuries
Injuries from falling are less common and can range from mild skin abrasions to death. A fall may result in bone fractures to the feet, shins, pelvis or lower back, soft tissue injuries in the ankle or knee, and most seriously neck and head trauma. It is essential to wear a helmet when climbing to protect your head.