Injuries and Recovery

24 10 2007

This week has been pretty crazy down in San Diego with the out of control wild fires. What this mean in climbing terms is no time outside for cardio and no going to the gym. I usually bike to work and because of air quality issues I have been quite hesitant. I may try it out tomorrow since the wind has been calming down but we will see. The climbing gym has been closed the last two days and we will see if it is open tonight.

What this means for me is that I forcibly got a bunch of rest. While I don’t like to take so many days off from climbing I think it has been really good for my finger. I have had some minor tendon pain that occasionally was a bit intense. This has been an injury that is usually solved with tape. It gives me little pain while climbing and is tender afterwards. A bit of massage and stretching help a lot and this injury doesn’t really affect my climbing.

About a year and a half ago in March of 2005 I dislocated my right shoulder at a climbing comp. I was on some thuggy boulder problem and was doing the typical cut feet campus beta. I was not working on technique I was just trying to get it done. I hit the next hold with my left hand but in that instant I felt my right shoulder lift out of its socket. I jumped down and walked out of the cave with my right hand in the air. It felt weird but not very painful. I moved my arm around a bit and it popped right back into the socket, lucky me. I had what is considered a subluxation and I was pretty lucky.

This injury put me out of climbing for the next few months and really changed my attitude towards how I climbed. In the past I was a very dynamic climber and didn’t really consider movement very carefully. I had learned how to propel my body in the right directions and to pull really hard. As well my training was to get huge forearms and be strong, not at all considering that I would need muscular balance.

As Lynn notes it is important to pay attention to our bodies and make sure to develop them correctly. Personally I need to make sure that I get the proper amount of sleep and adequate days off between hard climbing days or workouts. After injuring my shoulder I had to make sure to pay lots of attention so that I did not re injure it. My doctor told me that if I could keep from dislocating it again for the next few years the likelihood of a complete recovery would be much better. I started physical therapy and after the sessions I would ice and massage my shoulder. It was amazing to see how weak my shoulders really were and how much I how little weight I could lift.

In addition to more cross training I am constantly trying to learn how to move better. I have been inspired by a lot of the blogs that Lynn Hill has written lately. This one on prevention really strikes true because I know campusing that boulder problem led to the dislocation of my shoulder. As well, as she notes, staying injury free is really key to continued improvement. How can a climb expect to climb more routes if they are nursing old injuries?

Having hurt my shoulder has led me to climbing in a new style. While some times I am more hesitant I am climbing stronger now than I was before my injury. I have to step away from certain routes and problems because of reachy or dangerous moves but I still have plenty of things to climb. In terms of climbing harder and more routes I am constantly looking to improve my technique. By climbing more I have been increasing my move vocabulary but I want to keep learning. This blog about visualization is pretty cool since I am not that much in touch with my body yet. I still am struggling with how to do some of the moves that I am already familiar with.

Hopefully in the future I can learn how to better listen to my body and how to use it while climbing. Currently I pre-visualize sequences, foot positions and which ways my hips point. Taking this a step further to examine forces and where my center of gravity is may allow me to climb routes while expending less energy and using smaller holds. It will be exciting to try these techniques out next time I am at the crag.

– Luke

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