10 days ago I was finishing up at the climbing wall and was asked to demonstrate a move on one of the steep problems before I left – I had been climbing for the hour or so prior to this and had done the problem in question already so thought nothing of it – I pulled on and moved through the crux but heard a snap like when your crack your finger joints – I knew what it was but finished the problem because I knew it was the last time that I would top out on a problem like that for at least 6 weeks… I had ruptured my A4 pulley tendon on my right ring finger!
Thinking back it seems obvious – I must have tweaked it on the 8b weeks ago – I can remember avoiding using that finger, almost subconsciously, for a variety of tasks like putting on shoes, lifting packs etc… It wasn’t bad enough to warrant injury recognition. That combined with some hard training and climbing indoors and a bit of dehydration during the night in question, landed me where I am now – recovering. This happened to me before – two years ago I was invited over to Dublin to route set with Nigel at the RDS comp – end of the second day of setting and just finishing up, I was climbing a problem for the second or third time when I heard a loud snap – this time it was a partial rupture of the A2 (the big daddy!) that swelled up like a balloon and had me out of action for nearly 3 months! At the time I had plenty of access to medical journals through Caroline’s university degree so I spent plenty of time researching the condition. This time around I feel better just knowing what has happened, why it happened and how it’s going to heal and what I can and can’t do while it’s healing.
Heres some interesting facts:
The pulley system in our hands functions to maintain the flexor tendons close to the bone in our fingers, converting the linear force generated in the flexor muscle-tendon unit into rotational force at the finger joints. The loss of one or multiple pulleys can result in bowstringing….uuugghhh! Why the ring finger? Well, in the crimp position the carpal joint deviated slightly and shows mild supination, placing increased stress on the ring finger. Also, the middle finger is protected on both sides by fingers of roughly the same length, the index is protected by the thumb…. Poor oul ring finger is protected on one side by the pinkie, resulting in not much support at all.
What can be done?
Stop all climbing!
A conservative period of immobilization through taping of 10-14 days.
2 – 4 weeks of Functional therapy involving a range of movements – using soft squeeze ball and elastic bands – finger still supported by taping.
Easy sport specific activities can begin to resume after no less than 4 weeks
Can begin full sport specific activities after 6-8 weeks.
Finger should be supported through taping for 3 months minimum from time of injury to aid in the recovery process and ensure pulley resumes full prior strength.
So there it is – I’m following the above timetable fairly strictly because I know it’ll p[ay off in the long run. But I’m feeling good about it all because I know I have some very obvious weak areas in my fitness right now so I can divert all energy into plugging those considerable holes. What are they? Well after an illness forced layoff of the running training, it’s back on track – I can boost the running fitness level a lot during the next 6 weeks! My biceps and shoulders were feeling weak on the project to it’s time to get basic on them and lift some weights and do more push-ups. My core will never be strong enough for what I want to do and I’ve noticed such an improvement in my climbing through developing it so sit-ups and knee/leg lifts are the order of the day. And to round it all off, loose some weight before I’m back climbing at full power again – hopefully mid to late May. Having taken down the climbing wall I’ve taken the roman chair down from the attic and put it back into use – it’s just a free standing knee-lift, pull-up and dips frame but it’s great for just building strength against bodyweight resistance. Also, I’m viewing this recovery and fitness phase as the perfect time to get out and do some trad – I’ve been feeling the urge lately anyway and now that crimps are off the cards for a while, gritstone slopers seem perfect – I’ve been wanting to throw a rope down “The End of the Affair” since before moving to the UK and never have… well, can you guess whats coming? :)