Climbing Grip Choice and Injury

By: Dustin Steffan, DPT

Hand injuries, specifically pulley injuries, are common amongst climbers. Pulley injuries are slow to heal and often responsible for a great deal of missed climbing time. Grip choice can have a dramatic impact on this type of injury. One element at play is the choice to employ a closed crimp grip versus an open crimp grip (slope grip). The closed crimp has been shown in biomechanical studies to impart far greater force to the A2 and A4 pulleys. One study found a 36 fold increase in the mechanical force across the A2 pulley with a closed crimp grip versus the open crimp grip.

This is not to say that a closed crimp grip should be avoided in all situations, only that it carries a higher risk when calculating the risk versus reward balance inherent to any given climbing move. When there is an option between the two grips for a given hold, the safer choice is to employ an open grip. It is also best to use this grip when training.