Recovering From Injury – Molly Thompson Smith – On The Mend

Last December I did one of the worst things a climber could do to their fingers; I fully ruptured my A2, 3 and 4 pulleys in my left ring finger.

A long and hard competition season had passed and I was enjoying having some time to climb without training and take it easy for a bit. After a careful warm-up, I pulled on to a problem I’d done before and had no troubles with, only this time it didn’t feel quite right.

I was in a groove so had to shift some weight out onto my left hand above my head in order to bail. As soon as I shifted rightwards, I let go immediately. I got up from the floor looking at my oddly shaped finger, putting it back into place and believing I’d got away with what was a close one.


My coach asked if I’d snapped a hold off of the wall, and only then did I realise she was talking about the 3 loud cracks I’d heard as I moved out from the corner. An ultrasound later showed the damage I’d done, requiring surgery.

I had a 2.5 week trip to Santa Linya booked 5 days after I injured my finger. I still went and enjoyed soaking up some sun and eating some good Spanish food but it was really hard to just sit and watch everyone else climb in the cave all day.

I ended up flying home early to have surgery on my finger. This was the first operation I’ve had and as someone who is squeamish it wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to!

Although extremely uncomfortable, I had the surgery done whilst I was awake, and without a tourniquet (a medical first!). The surgeon asked if I was okay with this method as it would allow him to check he’d attached the new pulleys worked correctly when I clenched my hand into a fist.

As my 3 pulleys had snapped down the middle, Mike had to take from some of the pulley sheaf in the back of my wrist to create the new pulleys in my finger. The surgery went well and I was relieved to start my recovery!

For some weeks after surgery, I was completely reliant on the help of others, something which lost its novelty quickly. I was unable to tie my hair up, cut up vegetables, butter bagels and drive!

It was difficult but slowly I began to gain confidence and do more things for myself. Only 2 days after surgery my cast was removed and I started doing opening and closing exercises for my finger.

About 2 and a half weeks post op I couldn’t stand sitting around at home anymore and started climbing using only my right hand. I’m still pretty limited with what I can do; because my wrist was cut open it’s weak and inflexible, meaning I can’t weight it doing yoga or floor press ups.

Parallettes became an essential training tool, allowing me to do press ups and work on some shoulder stability. Now I like to climb with one hand a few days a week and condition as much as I can. I still can’t hang off of a bar yet so most of the conditioning I do is floor or rings based.

It’s been almost 2 months since surgery and I should only have to wait one more month until I am able to weight my finger. From there we’ll see how it goes!!

It’s been really difficult not being able to climb and train; especially hard watching other people climb and not being able to join in with them. Although climbing is technically my job at the moment, I still love it and miss it purely because I enjoy doing it.

At first, I only cared about being fit for the start of the lead World Cup season, but now I’ll just be grateful to climb again. This injury has made me realise how much I love climbing and how important it is to me. I’m learning to be patient and have accepted that this year is about recovery, and not to push myself at this time.

It’s hard to stay positive when the progress is slow, but I have to remind myself of how fast the body recovers, and how complicated all the processes happening in my finger are. And at the end of the day, at least my finger isn’t covered in blood or stitches anymore, and looks like a (slightly fat & purple) finger!

The latest update…

Molly Thompson-Smith 🙂