8 Most Common Climbing Injuries And How To Avoid Them


Rock climbing is one of the most exciting physical activities, but it is also very strenuous. Even though it is a great way to get strong and fit and it has many benefits, human bodies were not designed to put so much pressure on shoulders, arms, and fingers. That is exactly the reason why rock climbing injuries are very common.

Some injuries are traumatic and cannot be eliminated, while others are caused by the overuse of specific body parts. In this article, we will take a look at the most common climbing injuries, as well as share some useful tips on how to avoid them. 

Most Common Rock Climbing Injuries 

1. Finger Pulley Injuries

Climbers put a lot of strain on their fingers. That’s why straining or popping a finger pulley is one of the most typical climbing injuries. A pulley refers to a fiber band that acts as a sheath, attaching the tendons to the bone. Pulleys can be compared to circular bands, except they are only wrapped around the front of our fingers. 

Exerting excessive amounts of force through the tendons can injure or even rupture the finger pulleys. If you hear a pop while you are pulling very hard, that could be a sign of injury. Besides, if you can’t use your fingers without feeling pain, you should stop your climbing sessions to let your pulley heal. 

Prevention: Slowly building up your finger strength is the best way to prevent finger rock-climbing injuries. Bear in mind that it takes some time to strengthen your tendons. For example, you could try to hang boarding before you pack your climbing backpack again.

2. Tendonitis

Tendonitis refers to irritation or inflammation of a tendon. It is accompanied by a dull aching pain and swelling. Tendons refer to the cords that serve to attach muscles to the bone. Tendonitis typically occurs in the elbows, forearms, and shoulders of the climbers. 

It is also known as jumper’s knee, tennis elbow, or even pitcher’s shoulder. Tendonitis is not the immediate result of trauma and is more of a chronic condition. It can be caused by repeatedly pulling on the same muscle group, which is common in climbers. 

Tendonitis is one of the most common climbing injuries and it should be taken seriously to prevent rupturing the tendon, an injury that typically requires surgery. In case you have tendonitis, you need to take a climbing break and focus on resting. 

Prevention: It is crucial to stretch and build stamina. Flexor and extensor exercises that are done on a cable machine can be extremely helpful. Always start with the least amount of weight, while slowly increasing it. Exercises that build your forearm strength and grip are important as well, as well as using climbing chalk

3. Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear is one of the most serious rock-climbing injuries. In addition to dislocating your shoulder, you could also tear a muscle in it. When climbing, you spend much of the time extending your arms above your shoulders. That position puts a lot of stress on the tendons.

In case you experience aching and pain when you lift your upper arms, that could indicate a minor tear. Also, you could experience some numbness and weakness. It is very important to rest and apply ice in such situations. If your tear is more serious, you should consult a doctor. 

Prevention: Just like with most climbing injuries, stretching is a good method for rotator cuff tear prevention. You could implement cable machine exercises to strengthen your shoulders. Also, you could try lateral shoulder fly exercises using weights. 

4. Trigger Finger Syndrome

Trigger finger syndrome is one of the typical rock climbing injuries. If your fingers lock up when you try to bend them, it is an obvious sign of injury. Besides, you might hear a clicking or a popping sound as well as some stiffness.  The limited gripping potential is caused by a cyst inside the finger tendons.

Trigger finger syndrome can be very frustrating when climbing, even though it is generally not painful. Symptoms are usually barely noticeable in the beginning, but they tend to progress over time. To treat this injury, you should rest, take anti-inflammatories, or try acupuncture. 

Prevention: Mixing up your climbing style as well as your workout routine is the best way to prevent this climbing injury. For example, you could lead climb one day, get your bouldering shoes ready the next day, do moderate laps with climbing rope the third day, as well as take rest days. Massaging your fingers and doing gentle finger exercises could help you prevent trigger finger syndrome. 

5. Cracked Feet

Your climbing shoes can help you achieve great results, but they can also damage your feet. Heel hooking and crack climbing can result in cracked feet, which is not very serious, but it still one of the most common climbing injuries.

Putting your climbing shoes on with cracked feet is very painful. That’s why it is important to rest and apply nourishing creams and lotions daily. This condition can make it difficult to climb so it is important to take proper care of your feet. 

Prevention: Make sure you apply a moisturizing lotion every day, before and after your climbing session. If you are struggling with a cracked heel or sole, you could use a healing salve or change your typical climbing pattern.

Besides, make sure you are not overexposed to wet conditions, chemicals, and extreme cold. Such conditions increase the risk of cracked feet. While your feet are healing, try to avoid difficult routes and opt for moderate ones instead. 

6. Shoulder Subluxation

Shoulder subluxation, which refers to a partial shoulder dislocation, is very common in climbers who repeat the overhead moves daily.  It is one of the most typical rock climbing injuries, and it happens if the ball joint is extended too far. 

Sharp pain in the back of your shoulder means you should immediately stop climbing. If you continue moving in this case, that may lead to a full dislocation, which is one of the more serious climbing injuries. 

To recover from shoulder subluxation, you will need intensive medical care as well as physical therapy. Conditioning routines and regular stretching will help you regain a full range of movement and shoulder strength. 

Prevention: Warming up the shoulders by stretching works wonders to prevent shoulder injuries. Yoga is one of the best exercises you could choose for building strength in your shoulders. Bear in mind that you should start slow and increase the difficulty as time goes by. It is also important to stop whenever you feel any discomfort. 

7. Abrasions

Mild abrasions and bruises are a normal part of climbing. However, if your hands are completely covered in wounds, it might be a good time to start taking some measures to prevent these climbing injuries. 

If you scrape your body against a sharp rock, you may notice abrasions on your skin. Even though abrasions are not very serious, they may take some time to heal. That is why it is extremely important to take preventative measures. 

Prevention: Tape climbing gloves are the best protection for your hands. It is important to consider your climbing style when choosing the perfect pair of gloves. Many companies sell gloves and clothing specifically made for crack climbers.

8. Meniscal Tear

Meniscus structures are found in the knee joint and they help increase the area between the tibia and femur. This means that the stress is spread over a larger area, which reduces the risk of injury. However, the meniscal structures can tear due to the drop knee movement repeated over longer periods.

Symptoms of a meniscal tear include swelling, knee pain, giving away, as well as popping. To heal and stabilize your knee joint, you will have to undergo physical therapy as well as medical observation. Recovery also includes rest and different knee strengthening exercises.

Prevention: The risk of the meniscal tear injury could be reduced by rotating the foot. It is important to remember that the foot and the knee should be aligned. However, this is not always possible but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.



Q: How Can Rock Climbing Injuries be Prevented?


In order to prevent rock climbing injuries, you should introduce stretching on a daily basis. Also, it is very important to do a proper warm up session before climbing. Always be aware of your body and its movements in order to prevent injuries. In addition, use quality climbing gear, such as climbing pants and climbing helmets

Q: How Do You Know If You Have a Pulley Injury?


There are several pulley injuries symptoms. If you experience tenderness to touch, redness, inflammation, and swelling at the base of your finger, you have likely damaged your pulley. In addition, stiffness and pain when trying to bend your fingers are one of the most common pulley injury symptoms.

Q: How Do You Tape a Pulley Injury?


Take two thin pieces of 3-inch piece of tape and place them together so they form an X. Put the connected part of the tape directly on the middle joint of your finger. Make sure you tighten the tape following a 60-degree angle. Cover it with one more layer. This method can be used to tape the A3 pulley.

Q: What is an A2 Pulley Injury?


An A2 pulley injury is one of the most typical rock climbing injuries. Applying excessive force to the finger tendons can damage or even rupture the pulley. Small tears in the pulley can develop even after a few climbs and are a result of the common grip. Hearing a ‘pop’ is likely a sign of the pulley tear injury.

Q: How Do You Tape a Hand Injury?


Double the length from below the wrist to the base of the fingers and fold it in half. Cut a sliver, slide the middle finger through the hole and lay the tape over. Repeat the process for the ring finger and the index finger if needed. Lastly, cut a smaller piece of tape and place it over your wrist.  

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Climbing injuries are very common, especially if you are using crazy amounts of force during your climbing sessions. Repeatedly putting pressure on certain muscle groups and ligaments can cause a small tear, or even cause serious injuries. 

That is why it is crucial to learn how to prevent them to have fun while climbing and protect your health. Pay attention to warming before your climbing sessions. Besides, it is important to implement regular stretching to prepare your muscles for strenuous activity. 

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!