Climbing Injuries and Health

In a sport like climbing, it's not surprising that people get injured now and then. But many injuries, especially overuse injuries to tendons and muscles, can be prevented with proper training and other techniques. Our experts will show you how, along with in-depth articles on other climbing-related health topics, such as altitude sickness, nutrition, performance supplements, and more.
  • HPTheMindGame660

    The Mind Game: How to Overcome Fear

    After a near-death climbing experience, I was inspired to dig deeper into the psychology of fear and find out what I could learn about its effect on performance, how it wells up in the first place, and what we can do to deal with it. What I found will take your climbing to the next level—and could save your life.

  • HPLightningRotator

    Learn This: Laws of Lightning

    In July 2014, two hikers in Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado were killed by lightning strikes in two separate incidents on back-to-back days, and collectively, about a dozen others were injured. While these fatalities occurred on hiking trails relatively close to the road, lightning is an even bigger risk for backcountry and alpine climbers who are committed to being far away from a safe place for hours at a time. As the number of these climbers grow, it’s important to realize that lightning is a very serious threat that occurs practically every day in the high country. We teamed up with meteorologist William Roeder, who works with the U.S. space program in central Florida (aka Lightning Alley), and NOLS Curriculum and Research Manager John Gookin to compile the most pertinent information and best protocol for backcountry climbers.

  • HPRestDays

    Training: Efficient Rest Days

    As much as our social media streams may suggest otherwise, most climbers are real people with real jobs, spending a fair share of time deskbound. But fear not, weekend warriors, all that time in front of a computer screen doesn’t have to go to waste: With the proper approach, working at a desk can become a highly effective form of recovery. No joke. Most of our physical gains occur during the rest phase. Muscular micro-tears, swelling, scrapes, and bruises heal quickly with the right nutrients, rest, and support. We are getting work done and paying the bills, and all the while our bodies are restructuring piece by piece. Here are a few tips on how to turn your desk into a rest oasis; they’re small changes, but add it up over several years and you’ll see a huge difference in the health of your body.

  • HPPlat

    Training: Never Plateau Again

    Climbing is addictive. One reason is that you can see massive strength gains and technique improvement from day one of your climbing career. But after a few months—or for the extremely lucky, a few years—a plateau can sneak up on you, slow your progress, and frustrate you beyond belief. During my own personal three-year-long plateau, I heard every kind of advice from doing more pull-ups to climbing every day despite the pain to even going vegetarian (not gonna happen). On a quest to find the one true way, I started to interview top climbers to see how they handled these annoying performance flatlines—both mentally and physically—and the answers I found were as diverse and interesting as the climbers themselves.

  • HPMassage

    Recover Faster: How To Perform A Healing Self-Massage

    Doing a ton of what you love (climb, train, climb, climb, train, repeat) naturally makes muscles tight, sore, and knotted—especially those forearms! Without effective recovery, you can experience a drop in performance, an increase in pain, or even worse, injury. The key to quick recovery is flushing out lactic acid and metabolic waste, so you can come back the next day feeling fresh and ready to crush. These simple self-massage procedures will help you do just that.

  • HPLowering

    Essential Skills: Safe Lowering

    Lowering a climbing partner is one of the most common situations that leads to injuries and rescues in Accidents in North American Mountaineering, the American Alpine Club’s annual analysis of climbing accidents.

  • OppAndOppHP

    Essential Skills: Opposite and Opposed

    Carabiners act as important connection points in climbing, and whether it’s between the rope and a bolt or you and the anchor, we trust our lives to these tiny pieces of metal. While non-locking biners are acceptable in many applications, certain connections are more critical (e.g., belay biners, clipping into the anchor) and require a gate that can be locked into a closed position, which keeps it from accidentally opening.

  • ProFuelHP

    Eat Like A Pro

    Food can make or break your ascent. Packing and carrying sustenance on a route is crucial, whether it’s on snow or rock. But it starts before that, too. The night before the climb, eat a nutrient-rich, carb-heavy dinner consisting of whole grains, beans, and fruits to store glycogen—your fuel source for climbing.

  • The Comeback: Recovering From Climbing Injuries

    Life would be great if we bounced back quickly to 100 percent after recovery. But the reality is that once you get back on the vertical horse, you are still in recovery. Comeback climbing takes patience and acceptance of your vulnerability. It takes stepping back to the grades you began at and working your way back up.

  • One-Legged-Pigeon-Pose-158

    Stretch and Strengthen

    Stretching is an often-overlooked aspect of the pre-climbing routine. The following stretches pull double duty; not only do they lengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the approach—therefore preventing injury—but they also provide more mobility and flexibility on the wall so you can climb smarter and stronger.

  • The Right Approach: Backcountry Preparation

    You learned to walk a long time ago. But add 60 pounds of rope, rack, food, and other gear, and you might feel like you need a refresher course. While the rewards of a long approach—soaring routes, solitude, and wildlife sightings—may offset the pain of a long slog, these posture, stretching, and packing guidelines will do more to limit your aches and fatigue. This may be just the preemptive strike you need to go a little farther.

  • survival7

    Improvise, Overcome: Survival in the Backcountry

    In the context of medical emergencies, the wilderness is defined as anywhere beyond an hour from definitive medical care. That includes nearly every climb featured in this issue. However, that doesn’t mean you need to pack an ambulance-worth of specialized equipment for an overnight trip. Bring a small first aid kit of items you can’t improvise (like an Ace bandage or ibuprofen, for example), and then learn creative ways to treat common injuries with what you’ve got. This primer is a starting point, but no replacement for wilderness–first aid training.