Most Common Rock Climbing Injuries

Rock climbing is a fun, exciting sport and great way to keep fit and active. But you need to know the risks involved so you can prepare correctly and avoid injury. Team Re-Claim’s rock climbing expert Siti Nursara outlines the most common rock climbing injuries and tips on how to prevent them.


Finger Injuries

There are three major types of finger injuries:

  • An A2 pulley injury can happen when sudden pressure is placed on the hand. This can cause an alarming popping sound. About 90 per cent of all rock climbing injuries come from this.
  • Collateral ligament strains when a climber places too much pressure on the side-pulling hand while stretching with the other to grab a hold.
  • “Climber’s finger” or injury to the flexor tendon sheath can happen when a climber uses their finger to support their entire body weight. This strain can cause a loud pop followed by intense paid that may require surgery.

Tips with Sara: The small finger joints handle a lot of different stresses and strains while climbing. They are exposed to compressions, shearing, twisting and traction. Using finger tape is one way to reduce finger injuries getting worse. The basic idea is to create a layer of protection to prevent your skin from ripping. Research shows that taping for finger tendons or pulley injuries is sometimes ineffective. Rest is the best remedy.


Common Rock Climbing injuries Fingers

Recovery from finger injuries during training with KT tape.


Knuckle Stress Fractures

Knuckle stress fractures are caused by too much stress on the knuckles. Inflammation and pain can become excruciating especially when grabbing holds that are too small for the fingertips.

Tips with Sara: Knuckle stress fractures mainly happen during crack climbing. There are two main reasons for using tape for crack climbing; skin protection and structural support.

Uses of tape:

  • Protection of dressings
  •  Holding padding in place
  • Compression of an injury, blood and/or swelling
  • Support of recent joint or muscle injuries and protection from further injury
  • Limitation of range of motion at a joint
  • Support of an area to aid early return to sport


common rock climbing injuries knuckles

Correct finger and knuckle taping is important



As rock climbing is more punishing on the pulling muscles such as the biceps, forearms and trapezius muscles, the tendons tend to get strained and cause elbow and shoulder aches which can be attributed to tendonitis.

Tips with Sara: Shoulder tendinitis is a common overuse injury in sports climbing where the arm is used in an overhead motion. Shoulder tendonitis can be prevented by focusing on exercising the pushing muscles such as the pectorals, triceps and anterior deltoids to balance the strain on the tendons. The best treatment if injured is Rest, Ice, Medication.

Rest — Avoid things that hurt or make the pain worse the next day. Avoid the activity that started the problem. Your doctor may recommend a sling to immobilise the shoulder.

Ice — Apply an ice bag (over a towel) to your shoulder at least twice a day for 20 minutes. Also apply ice after any activity that aggravates your shoulder pain.

Medication — Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory or analgesic medication to relieve pain and inflammation while your body’s natural healing process begins. An injection of cortisone with novocaine into the shoulder may be recommended. After receiving an injection, do not attempt any vigorous activities with your arm for at least two weeks.


Common Rock Climbing Injuries Siti nursara

Rest is the best treatment for tendon injuries


Rock Climbing Falls

Rock climbing falls can be nasty and potentially fatal. Accidents are sometimes unavoidable but you can mitigate the severity by using helmets and making sure you are physically and psychologically prepared.

Tips with Sara:

a) Make sure you have proper equipment for climbing and the most important thing is the equipment is in good condition.

b) You must always warm up correctly before climbing. Skip this step at your own peril.

c) It’s equally important to know your own strengths and weaknesses. You may be excited to start climbing but you don’t want to overdo it.

d) It’s necessary to rest in between climbing attempts. This is particularly vital for those who are new to bouldering. Your body won’t be familiar with the various types of movements, so don’t be afraid to take breaks.


common rock climbing injuries siti nursara mid climb

Know your capabilities and have fun.


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