Does warming up properly help to prevent injuries?
Definitely! As I’ve mentioned – the science isn’t quite there proving anything climbing-specific, but we can learn from other sports. Unfortunately stretching is another one of those topics that hasn’t quite gotten consensus from the research perspective. What we do know is that stretching pre-exercise (especially explosive use – very much like bouldering) can actually lead to over-use injuries. I’d always suggest stretching after exercise and I’m generally a fan of dynamic stretches versus static, but that also depends on personal preference and the goal you are trying to achieve. Why stretch at all? Well, we might become quite strong in our shortened pec(toral) muscles, but that has a negative effect on the bio-mechanics of your shoulder and spine; balance is key.
What’s the worst thing a climber can do to themselves that will likely end in injury?
The biggest problem I see is people wanting too much too soon... Beginner climbers who use tiny crimps, for example. It takes 300(!) days for collagen to run through one cycle of regeneration – meaning 300 days for those tendons and ligaments to properly adapt to the new load.
Over-training is another thing. Exercise science shows that our muscles need rest. If you train maximal power, that muscle will need +/-72hrs rest to regenerate and training too soon may just result in you becoming weaker rather than stronger.
What are some of the most common injuries you see?
That makes me think of one of the most insane drop knees I saw in the boulder world cup in Munich, all I could think is “that poor hip and knee!”
In general I come across a lot of climbers with shoulder problems, sore elbows, wrists and the occasional knee injury due to a drop knee or a hamstring strain from heel hooking. Oh, and finger injuries, of course.
On the topic of tweaky fingers – how do you approach the dreaded finger injury?
Catching that iffy finger before it becomes a real issue is key. If you feel a sharp tweak during a climb – Stop. Assess. Consider. I hear far too often – “Yeah, I felt a pop but it was towards the end of the session and I really just wanted to finish off the problem so I just went for it”. Listen to your body, give it the day and especially the night and re-assess the next day. If indeed the finger is injured you will need time. I follow biology. That means that there will be an inflammation phase, the length of which depends on the severity of the injury – anything from roughly 3-10days (that’s where the finger is hot, stiff, hurts at rest etc.). During this phase rest is essential together with hot and cold applications to increase blood flow and very slight and gentle movement exercises.
Once that phase is over we really start the recovery process. First we increase the movement exercises, then begin with climbing-specific conditioning. The new tissue will have to learn what function we expect from it. I hear all too often “I hurt my fingers (or shoulder for that matter) took 3 months off and started climbing again a week ago but it’s still as sore!” Well of course, because not doing anything for 3 months can result in a beautiful, thick: ‘non-functional scar’. We need to give input to the healing tissue at the right time and progress slowly. Again – listen to your body!
Thanks Julia! Guys, Listen to your body 🙂