Collateral Ligament Injuries


Putting my collateral ligament to the test on Meltdown, Yosemite, CA.


Beth, Thanks for the injury related post. It is interesting to hear of all the injuries that pro climbers sustain. It is not limited to us amateur climbers. I saw you mention an injury to your collateral ligament. I was wondering if you could expand on this in a future blog post. I am currently suffering from a collateral ligament injury to my middle finger PIP joint, and I haven’t been able to find much information on this injury, related to rehabilitation beyond splinting and buddy taping. How much time did you take off? What were your strategies for resuming climbing?




Hi Mike –


Thank you so much for your question. I am so sorry to hear about your collateral ligament injury. I’ve had two serious collateral ligament injuries on my left index finger (where I had to take off time from climbing) and one minor one on my right index finger (where I didn’t take any time off, I buddy taped for a couple weeks and it healed). They can definitely be a frustrating injury and depending on the severity, can take some time to heal. My first injury was a result of crimping really hard while training on my wall in my garage. I’m especially crushed if I injure myself in the gym, as there are no good stories to tag onto the injury. Luckily, my most recent collateral injury was back when I was working on Cosmic Debris (5.13b) in Yosemite, so I felt a little more rad with that injury.


Crack climbing can be especially damaging to collateral ligaments, torquing the joint sideways and putting an unusual amount of stress on the short, thick piece of connective tissue. Cosmic Debris was particularly hard on my ligament as the crack is too wide to get solid finger locks, and as a result I relied heavily on the my ligaments by ring locking.


First off, let me just say loud and clear that I am not a doctor. I am in no way shape or form a qualified medical professional. But, I have spent a lot of time and money tracking down the best advice to heal quickly from injuries over my two decades as a professional climber. As I put in my last post, I was lucky enough to be seeing Brenda Cummings when I injured my collateral ligaments. My first suggestion, depending on the severity of your injury, would be to try and find a good Certified Hand Therapist. They are gurus with hands, working their magic on some of the body’s most delicate and intricate parts. With my first, most serious injury, I took a solid two months off of any climbing. However, I’m not sure this is the best approach for everyone. I should also state, that I heal very very slowly. Perhaps it’s due to my extremely hyper mobile joints, or my genetic make up, but I usually am a month longer than the “typical” healing time. For me, unless easy climbing will actually help the injury (as with some pulley injuries), it is worse for me to climb easy than to just take time off. I am not diligent or restrained enough to hold back before I injure myself further. Dave MacLeod, who is doing ongoing research on climbing training and injuries, just wrote a very good post on not taking time off. It is very important to know yourself and how your body responds to things.


One thing Brenda has seared into my head is blood flow. The problem with ligaments is they do not get very much blood flow, and therefore take a long time to heal. As a result, I made sure to keep my cardio exercise as high as possible. Every time I went for a bike ride, I imagined blood pumping through my tiny little index finger and healing the ligament. It also served a great outlet instead of festering inside and not climbing. I bought a punch pass to the local fitness gym to lift weights. I made sure not to do any exercises that increased the pain. Push ups, abs, and shoulder exercises were all okay for my injury. I avoided anything where I had to make a tight fist, as that would give me a very intense sharp pain.


I buddy taped (taping one finger to another) all the time; while cooking, biking, running, typing (which was a challenge at first), etc. I wanted to restrict any sideways motion which would flare up my finger. The last thing I wanted to do was prolong my injury from snagging my finger making my bed or doing the dishes. I also wore a tiny finger compression sleeve at night to reduce the swelling.


I made the trek from Estes Park to see Brenda in Fort Collins twice per week for a month. Brenda would massage the ligament and also used cold laser therapy. This was all to increase the blood flow to the ligament. Eventually, I started strengthening using the easiest color exercise putty. I slowly built up to making a fist with the putty in my palm.


Initially, starting to climb again was a very slow process. My first few sessions were mainly to regain confidence in my finger, not to test how far I could push it. I buddy taped for a good month when I started climbing again. For me, there was no reason to risk damaging the ligament again while I was building up strength and stability in the finger. I started climbing very easy on jugs and any hand hold that wouldn’t force my finger to be strained in a sideways position (gastons, hard pinches, and crimping). Gradually, I built up to smaller and smaller holds, and eventually crimping. It took several months before I felt confident enough to climb finger cracks, but those are the most severe on collateral ligaments.


I wish you the best of luck with your recovery. Remember to be patient with it. I know I always get frustrated with finger injuries as they seem so inconsequential and so small compared to other body parts. But their health and strength are vital to our sport. Please don’t hesitate to ask other questions or let me know how your recovery is going, I’m more than happy to help if I can.


All the best,



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  • Thanks so much for your post Beth. I have also suffered from collateral ligament injuries from crimping and as the poster above mentioned, found little to no information on recovery. I first read your post a couple of months ago and it has definitely helped in my recovery. Best of luck with your climbing!


    November 23, 2012 at 7:36 am
  • Thanks Fred. I hope that you are recovering well and getting to climb as well. They can be stubborn and hard to recover from, but just be diligent and you'll get there.

    November 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm
  • Hi Beth, great blog. I think I have damaged the collateral ligament in the middle finger on my right hand. I can't manage to bring the finger into the palm and the joint is very swollen. I'm taking a bit of time off from the climbing wall and hitting the gym instead. I have taped the finger and particularly so when making beds (just like you) and for general day to day stuff. I'm starting to feel some improvement but it is very slow indeed.

    April 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm
  • Hi Annie –
    I am so sorry to hear about your collateral ligament injury, but am glad to hear that you are making some improvement. Just be sure to keep it guarded from side to side impact, which it sounds like you are with the taping you are doing. Also, I know that my hand therapist said that aerobic exercise was great for ligament injuries, anything to promote blood flow to the ligaments which are notoriously bad for blood flow.
    Be patient and good luck! Please let me know if you have any other questions.

    April 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm
  • Hi Beth, I just realized that I may have developed a collateral ligament sprain after climbing Serenity-Sons yesterday (my first 10d onsight :)). The inside of my index finger hurts at the second knuckle from the nail. I have complete range of motion but it is definitely a little swollen. After using Google for a bit I realized that there isn't a lot of information out there about this sort of injury. And your article has provided some insight into this sort of injury. I'm going to buddy tape for a bit but am not sure what you mean when you say 'side to side impact'. Do you just mean injured knuckle hitting the buddy finger's knuckle?


    May 6, 2013 at 11:53 pm
  • Hi Job –
    Thank you very much for your message, but I'm very sorry to hear about your finger! And so unfortunate to happen after a great send on Serenity-Sons. If I understand you correctly, your finger hurts on the inside portion of the side of the knuckle? Meaning that it is the side of the knuckle the hits another finger? Not the side that faces towards your thumb? Basically you want to make sure that you try to limit the motion which hurt your finger – which was torquing it side to side – a motion that it is not meant to do naturally. Buddy taping to the middle finger will make sure that it doesn't get moved or bumped in the direction that you hurt it. I hope this make sense, and again, I'm definitely not a doctor, but this is what worked for me.
    You are the second person in two days that has told me they hurt their collateral ligament :( I hope it gets better quickly. Also make sure you ice it, or soak it in the Merced River if you are still in Yosemite.
    Please let me know if you have other questions or if I can help in any other way….and best of luck!

    May 7, 2013 at 12:34 am
  • Hi Beth, I am suffering from the same injury on my right middle finger and also my left ring finger. Have been internet researching like mad and glad I read your blog. I think with climbing being relatively new in the "mainstream", it seems a lot of sports medicine doctors don't know how to treat climber injuries. I've been going to a doctor who performs Graston and A.R.T. to help induce bloodflow and break down scar tissue. It's very painful but seems to help with the healing. Good luck with all of the climbers here suffering from the same injury! I'm forcing myself to take time off and focusing on cardio, strength training, yoga, and other activities.

    May 22, 2014 at 5:00 am
  • Thanks so much for your comment! I'm so sorry that you injured your collateral, but super great to hear that the Graston and A.R.T is helping! Blood flow seems to be the key, so I bet that along with your cardio is healing your ligament!
    I wish you a continued recovery! And thanks again for your comment!
    All my best.

    May 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm
  • Hey Beth,

    Like the other commenters, I'd just like to say thank you for posting this. I'm finding it years later but it is by far the most informative piece I've found, and I've done quite a bit of research on this injury. I plan to follow your advice and if I remember, I'll post back to let you know how it turned out. Thanks again!


    June 24, 2014 at 2:48 pm
  • Hi Sam –
    Thank you so much for your comment. I'm sorry to hear that you have to deal with this injury! But just take it slow, it'll definitely come around!
    I wish you all the best in your recovery and please let me know how it goes for you!

    June 25, 2014 at 3:08 am
  • Hi Beth,

    I have a mild collateral ligament strain in my ring finger, currently I think it's ok to keep climbing on but to avoid aggravating it I think buddy taping will be a good idea. I was just wondering if you could outline how to go about buddy taping it? Should I buddy it to my middle finger or little finger? Where's best to tape together, at the knuckles or between the knuckles?


    July 31, 2014 at 11:13 am
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    July 31, 2014 at 11:14 am
  • Hi Jacob! Thanks so much for your message, but I am very sorry to hear about your injury. When taping, you want to tape on the side of finger that the ligament is strained. So for instance, I usually get them on my pointer fingers on the side against the middle finger, so I tape against the middle finger. If yours hurts on the side of the pinky finger, then tape there. Or tape on the middle finger if it hurts there. I hope that makes sense, but if not, please let me know and I can elaborate further.
    Good luck with your recovery!!

    August 1, 2014 at 10:51 pm
  • Excellent post, thanks.
    Like the others I seem to have done this to my finger, not by crimping though, by pulling on a shallow mono, though in hindsight it probably involves some torquing force. Unlike some of the above posts I am not feeling any pain and only became aware of it the following day when I noticed my finger was quite swollen! Does this sound like Collateral Ligament damage or could it be some other finger joint injury? I'm pretty sure that my tendon and pulleys are fine.

    Thanks Dave

    September 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm
  • Hey Dave! Thanks for your comment – but so sorry to hear about your finger. My collateral ligament injuries definitely made my fingers swell up – and even sometimes the next day. I'm definitely not a doctor, so perhaps there could be other stuff that is going on with your finger, but I could see pulling in a pocket definitely having an impact on them. Ice and rest and tape!
    I hope you heal up fully and quickly!

    September 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm
  • Hello Beth,

    I also believe that I have a ligament strain or collateral ligament strain due to a car accident about 4-5 months ago. When it happened i thought something was wrong with my right index finger because the knuckle was sore and swollen. Although it was sore and swollen i thought it was just a jammed finger or something so i continued to climb and train pretty hard having little or no problems climbing at my limit from v9-10 range. Since then it has still been swollen and sore but only after I'm done climbing and only hurts on the top and right side of my knuckle closest to my middle finger. It also hurts when i try to clench my fingers to my palm and i can't close my index all the way into a fist. Throughout the past couple months it has gradually just been getting a bit more and more sore so i have been taking it easy for about a week now i started buddy taping and continued my daily regiment of contrast baths. I know as you stated above you are not a medical professional but would you recommend taking more time off or to continue light climbing as long as i am listening to my body making sure i know when to stop? Also, during your previous injuries did you ever feel any movement or like a cracking sensation possible where the tendon is? I only feel that sensation every now and again and only when I'm opening and closing my fingers, And do you think this is due to the inflammation making the tendon rub back and forth? Anyway sorry for all the questions, thank you mucho for the article and happy climbing!

    April 14, 2015 at 11:21 pm
  • Hi Corey –
    Thanks so much for your message, but I'm truly sorry to hear about your injury! Such a bummer :( I'm definitely not a doctor, so cannot say for sure whether you have a collateral injury or not. But, I too experienced that popping sensation with a few of my collateral ligament strains. Luckily they lessened over time. For me, I took off a bit of time in the beginning part of the injury and then slowly built back up climbing while buddy taping. I always did the clenching the fist test to see if I thought I was ready. I'm pretty sure that I waited til I had minimal pain doing that to start climbing. However, I know that I usually err on the side of taking more time off than most of my peers.
    I hope this helps and I hope you heal up quickly!

    April 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm
  • Hi Corey,

    I have recently (last week) been diagnosed with collateral ligament damage to my PIP joint on my LH ring finger. I was presenting with the same popping/ cracking symptoms when extending and flexing the finger (particularly when using maximum extension and flexion). For me these seem to be originating from the distal side of the PIP and on the extensor side of the middle phalanx – how about for you? My best guess is it is one of the extensor tendons moving over/ under an inflamed ligament.

    Over the last week the finger has got a lot better and the cracking/ popping has subsided – although it does still occur. Interestingly my physio (a climbing specialist) told me not to buddy tape whilst resting and to keep moving the finger as much as possible (whilst listening for any signs of worsening). Expecting a 3month minimum recovery time but plan to get back on the rock in a few weeks – how has your recovery been since april?

    Sorry for the long post!

    August 11, 2015 at 10:39 am
  • Hi Tom! Thanks for replying to Corey – I really hope that your recovery is going okay and that you are getting back to climbing soon. And awesome info on not buddy taping while resting, makes total sense! Thanks again and all my best!

    August 20, 2015 at 10:54 pm
  • Hello, I'm not a climber, I hit my index finger on a lava rock on the beach in Hawaii, just at the right point on the inside collateral ligament and it hurt severely until the whole bottom part of my finger swelled. About a week later, all of the swelling was gone, but a very tender and hard knot remained on my joint, I can't press buttons or pull my swim suit out of my butt cheeks; that acton hurts to the most. The last week I've kept it in a splint and it's getting stiff but I think it's finally starting to improve… thanks for posting. Here's a pic IMG_7830.JPG

    September 22, 2015 at 2:57 pm
  • Hi Yvonne!
    So sorry to hear about your finger injury! I hope that it is healing up and you are getting some relief. If you can find a hand therapist they can work magic! I would highly recommend it!
    All my best!

    September 29, 2015 at 5:05 pm
  • rahul singh

    Hi breth , i injured my index finger. While. Working out tip pf my. Finger came back. And i hd and open injury it had been a week it not paining. But i m facing difficulty in bending i m using a fiber clip to hold the finger give me some tips

    November 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm

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