With Cristiano Costa.

As climbers, the most common place we get injuries are, unsurprisingly, in our fingers. Fingers are also the one area where we’d prefer not to be injured, as they tend to be pretty important in our sport…

It’s easy to understand how fingers get injured. When we’re climbing, particularly on small holds, large amounts of force are transferred through to small muscles and tendons in short bursts, putting them through significant high-levels of stress.

For most climbers, these are tendons and muscles that are only put under this unique level of stress while climbing, no matter how hard you hit your keyboard at work. If we push them too far, too quickly, then eventually something has to give.

To find out how we can prevent injuries and what climbers can do before and during a session, we teamed up with Cristiano Costa, London’s leading climbing physio, to chat through finger care for climbers.

What causes finger injuries?

Based on the work that Cristiano been doing with climbers of all abilities over nearly 20 years, he’s identified the most common causes for finger injuries as: 

Overloading: This can stem from either a singular traumatic event, where the tissue’s threshold is surpassed on a single move (e.g cutting loose on a ratty crimp and trying to hold on for dear life), or from the cumulative impact of excessive training within a specific timeframe (e.g climbing hard, fingerboarding, and campus board training in a single day), leading to adverse changes in the tissue’s integrity.

High frequency: Lack of appropriate rest is very likely to compromise tissue capacity to withstand load. Rest is key to maintaining tissue health and retaining the adequate threshold level for high intensity training.

High volume: Long climbing/training sessions, especially high intensity sessions that exceed 2 hours, put passive structures in the fingers at higher stress. 

When do they happen the most?

Cristiano has been working with climbers since 2005 and through his observations, over 50% of finger injuries occur either early in a session or at the very end of a session.

The above can be attributed to a few different factors:

Early in the session:

  • Lack of adequate warm up. Something all climbers can be guilty of…
  • Too much, too soon. Your project can wait!
  • Poor focus. Poor technique and sloppy climbing on a climb you take for granted can quickly lead to an injury.

Late in the session:

  • Fatigue. ‘Just one more go…’
  • Reduced power output. If other muscle groups start to fatigue, your fingers can end up over-compensating.
  • High volume. Know when it’s okay to wind down and take a rest.

How can we fix it or prevent this from happening?

Firstly, to make that you keep your fingers in good health, you should book a consultation with a physio to have a detailed assessment of your range of motion, peak load, finger position on different hold shapes and sizes, as well as obtaining an individualised warm-up regimen and strengthening program.

We are all unique in our composition and our bodies are all built differently. In order to best reduce the risks of developing an injury, it is important to understand how our own bodies work.

That’s not to say that there are some general steps that we can all take to treat our fingers correct.

Of course, the most obvious thing you can do to avoid finger injuries is to ensure you’re always carrying out a thorough warm-up before you climb.

So, what does a proper climbing warm-up for your fingers look like?

Check the following video link with some warmup drills to get your fingers ready to send

Motus Physio – See a physio before you need one!

Cristiano Costa is a London based physiotherapist and climber.

He has been looking after the climbing community for over 15 years and  has worked with several former and active GB climbing team members as well as other professional climbers such as Alex Honnold Louis Parkinson, Neil Greisham, Toby Roberts and Molly Thompson-Smith to name just a few.

Cris is our resident physiotherapist running clinics from EustonWall and can be booked by direct messages. He urges climbers to adopt his catchphrase, ‘#seeaphysiobeforeyouneedone’!