Edison physical therapists urge rock climbers to know the risks for common injuries and take steps to avoid them
These days, people get their sporting kicks off in all kinds of different ways. For some with a more extreme appetite, rock climbing might serve that purpose, giving climbers an opportunity to scale an outdoor—or indoor—wall using their own body strength and a rope (sometimes). While rock climbing is certainly an invigorating thrill that serves as a great workout, it also comes with risks. Today, our Edison physical therapists discuss some of the most common climbing injuries and what climbers can do to prevent them.
Rock climbing and bouldering (a form of climbing in which no ropes or harnesses are used) are full-body sports that generally tend to be physically grueling. There are a number of different types of climbing, but all require a high degree of upper body strength and leg strength, either with or without the assistance of a rope. Putting the body through this on a regular basis can do some damage over time.
When injuries and rock climbing are mentioned together, the initial reaction might be to think of those that result from falls or sudden mistakes while climbing. Though these types of injuries certainly do occur and will be explored later, if you have the right type of gear and know how to climb safely, falls really shouldn’t be that much of a concern. Instead, the majority of rock climbing injuries relate to overuse. Most of these injuries develop gradually, while others can happen on the spot, but they all occur as the result of training issues.
Some of the most common rock climbing injuries include:
- Pulley tears: the fingers don’t contain any muscles, but are instead operated by a system of tendons and ligaments, called pulleys; placing too much body weight on fingers can lead to a pulley tearing partially or completely
- Shoulder injuries: partial dislocation, rotator cuff tears and tendinitis are all very common; the shoulder is injured often due to the extreme strain placed on it
- Ankle injuries: twisted, sprained and broken ankles may occur in bouldering from landing incorrectly
- Other: trigger finger, elbow and forearm tendinitis may also occur, while several foot injuries can develop in climbers that wear shoes that are too tight
To reduce your risk for injury while rock climbing, our Edison physical therapists recommend these helpful tips:
- Warm up: try to warm up and stretch thoroughly before climbing; one way to do so is to take one or two bouldering routes that are easier than your skill level
- Don’t overdo it: try not to climb more than five days a week and take rest days
- Cross train: focusing all your energy on rock climbing alone can be dangerous; it’s best to change it up with some biking, jogging or other activities as well
- Avoid over-gripping: this is the term for using more force than is necessary to hang on a rock; doing so can be dangerous
- Climb smart: learn and follow good technique while climbing at all times; this means knowing how to move your body, allocate your weight and the proper way to use different holds; you should also learn how to fall properly
- Increase strength: improving your shoulder strength and crimp strength (finger strength for very small holds) will significantly boost performance and reduce injury risk
It’s great to see a sport like rock climbing gaining so much popularity, but as with any new sport, newcomers and vets alike need to be aware of the dangers and take steps to avoid them. If you do sustain an injury, our Edison physical therapists can work with you one-on-one to build back your strength and get you back on the wall in no time. Contact Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at 732-494-0895 or click here to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Union, Woodbridge, Edison or Somerville NJ. For more information on climbing injuries, click here.