Lessons Learned from a Pulley Injury

My January started off pretty good, on my 3rd session of the year, I sustained a pulley injury (a strain of the A2 pulley in my right ring finger) after attempting to match a gnarly crimp undercling on overhung terrain. My foot didn’t slip like most pulley injuries, but somewhere between me switching my right hand for my left, I must have created a shock load similar to having a foot slip.

I felt a sharp pain that lingered for a couple of hours followed by being unable to bend my fingers or make a fist. The next day, I woke up with numb fingers and knew I was in for a few weeks of recovery.

After about 3 weeks of no-climbing activity, I started indoor bouldering on very easy problems graded between V0-V2. During this time, I focussed primarily on footwork drills and improving climbing techniques.

During this time I also started re-training the muscles with putty which if you don’t know, is basically like play-doh for climbers. They come in different strengths, are fun to play with, and can be used while watching some Netflix or crushers on YouTube.

One month into recovery I progressed to V3-V4 boulders and felt no pain so I kept going, still avoiding crimpy problems. I adopted a more static approach to climbing during this recovery period which is something that I believe will benefit me in the future as a short and dynamic climber I was definitely lacking in the static department.

As I got comfortable trying all the V4s in the gym again without feeling pain, I started attempting V5s that I could do statically with few to no crimps still. I did hurt myself on some occasions, particularly after deadpoints but the pain always subsided within a couple of minutes.

6 weeks into recovery, I felt really good about myself. I woke up without any numbness in my fingers, I didn’t experience any pain in the half-crimp position and honestly felt like my injury was mostly healed.

This gave me a false sense of security that caused me to re-injure myself into my 7th week of recovery. It happened while my partner and I visited a new bouldering gym with another couple.

As this was more of a social session, I didn’t warm up as much as I usually do because I didn’t want to be rude and step away from the group. This was a mistake. We were just having fun, checking out some duo boulders left-over from valentines day, and then before I knew it I was climbing a crimpy V3 graded boulder problem.

It wasn’t a hard problem at all, but my friend had slipped off because of the poor footholds so I wanted to show off. Without reading the problem I just jumped on. The start holds were fine but then it require you to balance on poor footholds. My shoes were still cold so I didn’t trust the rubber all that much but instead of taking this as a warning sign I kept going.

The next move was a deadpoint to me, which I would have avoided on any other day. I don’t know what went through me, peer pressure, wanting to show off, not wanting to give in, whatever it was, I lunged for the next hold. I felt the sharp pain and knew exactly what I had done. I jumped off the problem and tried to massage it off but alas.

I spend the next hour in pain. I can’t explain to you what it feels like to be this annoyed and disappointed in yourself. After nearly 2 months of recovery, just when the end is in sight, I f*&ked it up for nothing. I let my ego get the best of me and karma kicked me in the teeth.


The main thing I took away from this experience is that pulley injuries don’t heal in just 2 months. Even if you feel fine, even if the pain is fully gone, you have to continue to be careful for months after your injury.

Continue climbing easy boulder problem, stay away from crimps, stay away from deadpoints, climb with the open-hand grip as much as possible, and always take an extended warmup.

Don’t be a fool like me, don’t wipe 2 months of recovery just because you want to send something, trust me, it’s not worth it. And never look down on grades, without warmup even a V3 can send you right back to injury island.

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