The Dreaded Pulley Tear
In recent years, climbers have come a long way in ter ms of knowledge of over use injur ies and how to avoid them. I started rock climbing in the early ’ 90s, when training for climbing was something only a handful of us did. When I walk into our g ym these days, the scene is dif ferent. In addition to the rope climbing and boulder ing sur faces of var ying angles, we now have campus boards, hangboards, system walls, Bachar ladders, g ymnastic r ings, sling trainers and more. It’s exciting to see that training for climbing is happening at unprecedented levels.
With the increased popular it y of climbing-specif ic training, it is important to raise awareness about injur ies. The past 10 years have seen an explosion in climbing injur y research, which is making its way into our spor t media. In this ar ticle, we wil l review what ever y climber needs to know about the most common soft-tissue injur y in our spor t: cl imber’s f inger.
Modern rock climbing places a tremendous strain on the f ingers, ar ms and shoulders. In the early days of spor t climbing, a study of elite competition climbers in the U.S. repor ted that 95 per cent had upper limb soft tissue injur ies and 63 per cent of these were found in the hand. Twent y-six per cent of these climbers were found to have f inger f lexor pul ley injur ies. These pul ley r uptures were then, and are stil l today, the most common injur y af fecting moderate and elite level rock climbers.
Closed injur y of the f inger f lexor pul ley system is found almost exclusively in rock climbers. It was f irst descr ibed by Dr. S.R. Bollen in 1988 and has come to be known as climber’s f inger. Bollen was an orthopedic surgeon in Leeds, England near the Peak Distr ict in the mid-’ 80s, which happened to be one of the few places where training for spor t climbing was being pioneered. Today, much more is known about climber’s f inger.