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Related : Is it bad for a piano player to work out?

Context :

The SE question linked above actually reminded me of a story about a guitar teacher that used to rock climb regularly but quit as he felt his climbing activity hindered his guitar play.

As an occasional climber and a guitar player, I wondered about this story for quite a time. The answers in the question above claimed that working out should not be a problem for piano playing. But what about rock climbing ? Climbing definitely put some hard pressure to your fingers, and anyone who had ever rock climbed know that you feel that a numbness lingers in the fingers quite some time after climbing (several hours usually).

Question :

Does rock climbing hinder, in the long-term, your finger dexterity, hence your instrument play ? If yes, how, and how much ?

Details :

I'm more interested in the lingering effects from climbing exposure on the fingers (or arms), not so much about the injury risk from fall/mishap (of course if you crush your fingers on a rock it will seriously hinder your play). Though they're not totally out of the question either.

For the instrument, I obviously think about the guitar, although I guess this question could be extended to any instrument that requires some finger dexterity, like the piano.

EDIT : this is what I mean when I write 'climbing' : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_climbing

  • @021 is it "regular" or "occasional?" I imagine the amount of climbing matter as overuse/injury could be more likely if it's frequent. Also, intensity could matter. Does the climber do crazy stuff like hold their whole weight by a few fingers, etc? – Michael Curtis Oct 8 '18 at 14:58
  • @Michael For the frequency, one of my motivations for posting this question (and possibly for any future reader to look for this question) would be to adapt my climbing frequency depending on the resulting effects on my playing. That's why I would prefer not to be too specific about frequency. About intensity, I kinda feel the same as for frequency (not wanting to be too specific). Though I'd be more ok with giving up more information about this if needed. I would say the intensity required to climb E4/6a british grade (or 6c in french). – 021 Oct 8 '18 at 15:13
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because care of one's physical self is hardly limited to rock-climbing. – Carl Witthoft Oct 9 '18 at 12:14
  • @Carl Can you elaborate ? I don't understand – 021 Oct 9 '18 at 12:23
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    @021 -- I don't think that the question is necessarily a bad one, but the comments about taking risks with your limbs do seem relevant. I think that your question might be better answered not by musicians but by medical professionals or sports-medicine professionals who can address long-term physiological and neurological effects of such activities. – David Bowling Oct 9 '18 at 16:06
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rock climbing does indeed hinder your fingers' range of motion, but not necessarily dexterity.

Tenosynovitis: Your tendon sheaths around your joints get inflamed from regular and repeated rock climbing strain and they start to build up scar tissue. They thicken and drastically reduce range of motion, especially limiting your fingers' ability to touch your own palm. This doesn't really affect piano playing but does affect guitar playing, limiting your ability to play some certain intricate chords.

I'm speaking from experience.

Context: I played...
Classical Piano from 5-14yrs old
Jazz Guitarist from 14-24yrs old
Rock Climbed/Bouldered from 24-27yrs(now)

2

Short answer: No. Longer answer: depends.

Similar to my answer in the question you linked, I have several friends who are intense rock climbers - all play different instruments: piano, trumpet, etc. They are professional musicians and have never had issues resulting from it.

That said, any intense sport you do will show up later in life as an effect on the body. It’s possible that if it’s going to affect you, it won’t be until your 50-60’s, which is when it’ll really start to give you trouble. Also possible it never effects you at all. This is entirely dépendant in your individual biology.

Hope that helps.

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I think a person needs to assess their sport technique and make a personal decision about how much risk they are willing to take.

If you played a sport a lot, you could face an overuse injury. Something like tennis and a wrist problem. But, generally if you have good form and take care of yourself you should not get injured just from playing a sport frequently.

On the other hand you could play a sport occasionally and have an accident. (I jammed my finger catching a football this summer, but I don't play regular football.)

But, you can say the same for nearly anything you do. I could cut my hand chopping vegetables.

Some sports may be especially risky. Martial arts - where you punch stuff all the time - seems risky for the aspiring concern pianist. But other than an extreme like that, a musician should be able to play sports without fear of injury.

  • Well put. A certain famous BSO director (Ozawa) gave up professional piano after breaking a finger playing baseball (I think; might have been some other ball sport). – Carl Witthoft Oct 9 '18 at 12:15
  • Good points, however all of this would apply for any other physical activity, and I'm more interested in the effects from rock climbing specifically. My primary concern is that climbing put hard pressure on the fingers, which could cause some long-term damage. But I don't want to narrow the question too much either, that's why I did phrase my question to stay open for things I might not have thought of. – 021 Oct 9 '18 at 16:06
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My wife climbs mountains for fun (I can't even watch her), and she is also the Worship Leader at our church. If anything, the mountain climbing helps her guitar playing, because she feels healthier and stronger. Of course, the question can be viewed as purely subjective - it works for my wife, but it doesn't work for me (Gravity and I don't have a good relationship)

  • I think the question is about rock climbing, which involves serious finger strength, as opposed to hiking, which involves none. In my experience in the US, "mountain climbing" usually denotes hiking. – phoog Oct 8 '18 at 14:55
  • I'm in the US, but not from the US. My interpretation of 'Mountain Climbing' means ropes, helmets, abseiling, belays etc - not just a nice stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon. – PeteCon Oct 8 '18 at 20:02
  • I'm from the US, and my interpretation of mountain climbing includes ascending mountains even if ropes, helmets, etc., are not necessary, but "stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon" does not include ascending mountains. – phoog Oct 8 '18 at 21:14

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