No amount of tape is going to make up for strong, conditioned muscles in your hands, but it can aid in recovering from or avoiding serious injuries. There are a few different ways to tape to protect your fingers and wrist, so we thought we’d help you by laying them out for you.
Protect Your Finger Pulleys
Your finger pulleys—the little tendons in your finger that work to prevent sheath collapse and expansion during motion—are the most susceptible parts of your hands when climbing. Improper care of them is one of the main sources of injury so it’s important to tape them the right way.
Start your tape—only use one strand for this—around the first phalanx on your hand and wrap around three, maybe four times. The first phalanx is the one that connects with your hand between the first and second crease. You want the tape to be tight, but comfortable. Proceed to cross the tape over the joint and wrap it around the second phalanx three times. Bring the tape back down to cross over the joint again, forming an X pattern, and wrap it back around the lower phalanx to finish it off.
Be careful not to pinch any nerves. You can use this taping method on any of your fingers and it helps immensely when sticking your fingers into cracks, hand jams and tricky holds that might cause your fingers to bend in awkward positions.
The Tape Glove
A tape glove will help you avoid scratches and painful cuts on the back of your hands and between your fingers. Those things hurt like hell.
Beginning at your knuckles, place three to four strips of tape across the back of your hand. Follow that up by bringing a strip of tape from the top of your wrist up and around the base of your index finger tight enough for it to stay in place but not so tight it restricts movement. From here, you have two choices. Some people to repeat this process through the next two fingers or only include the pinky. For comfort and flexibility’s sake, let’s skip to the pinky.
Bring the tape up from your wrist again and wrap it around the base of the pinky, covering the space between the two fingers, and bring it back down to the top of the wrist. Wrap the tape around your wrist at least four times. If done properly you’ll have covered the back of your hand without gaps.
The Recovery Tape
If you’ve reached the point of no return and already jacked up your finger joint you’ll need to effectively block the A2 and A3 annular pulleys from bending and tearing any further. You’ll still be able to climb, but crimping is out of the question. Focus on practicing your open hand skills until your fingers recover.
To prevent your pulleys from facing imminent destruction, begin taping your finger halfway up the first phalanx. Do a few laps around until you’ve covered the middle joint of your finger up halfway between the second and third joint. You’ll want to have overlapped each round of tape by at least 50 percent. The goal here is to keep your finger from bending. If you can still hook it, you screwed up and the tape is too loose.
Protecting the Flapper
We don’t whole-heartedly endorse this one since it involves putting an object between your palm and the rock, but some people are probably fed up with flappers and are willing to give up a little grip to spare themselves some pain. We don’t know any of these people, but they probably exist.
If you find yourself with a flapper and want to keep climbing, it’s time to go for the super glue. You should always pack some super glue. Without ripping the loose skin off your hand cover the flapper with the glue in a thick layer. Tearing the skin off with just make it take longer to heal.
Once the glue dries throw some tape overtop that sucker and get back on the wall. It should only take a couple of overlapping strips to cover the flapper. You might even try putting the tape on before the glue dries for the extra adhesion if you’re afraid of the tape coming off, but it shouldn’t be necessary.
FYI the super glue will flake off over time, so leave it on and let the flapper heal on its own.
Wrapping Your Wrist
If someone told you that you could prevent wrist injuries by taping up, they lied to you. If you managed to twist it in a funny direction while climbing, however, there are some ways to tape it to help you recover.
One of the most effective methods is the dorsal cross. Begin by placing a strip of tape around your palm, going up over the thumb and back around a couple of times to cover your hand. Place another strip of tape beginning on your forearm just below the wrist and bringing it around and up to cover your wrist.
With your wrist bent slightly backwards, begin a third layer of tape on the right-hand side of the tape you previously started below your wrist at the back of your hand. Bring that tape up and across the back of your hand, over the top of your thumb and back down over your palm to bring it full circle. Repeat this process on the other side, effectively forming a cross overtop the back of your hand and wrist.
Consider wrapping another layer of tape around your wrist again to help keep the rest of the tape in place, and you’re set.
Keep in mind that there’s no conclusive medical evidence supporting the idea that tape will help prevent injury during climbing. It can, however, help alleviate the pain to already injured hands and keep you from sustaining some gnarly gashes.