Climber’s Fin­ger

The Dreaded Pul­ley Tear

Gripped - - THE HUT - Story by Dr. Yasser El-Sheikh

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.

Fig­ure 2

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