So you got a finger injury during lockdown - Recovering from an A2 pulley injury

The other day I listened to the Thundercling podcast with Jamie Emerson. They touch on many great topics, including a great chat about the artistic side of climbing and how characters within climbing have a vision that can be expressed through climbing. I find this so much more interesting then the incredible amounts of home training content during/after lockdown. The amount of fucks I could give about the next persons hangboarding routine is diminishing ever quicker; If you want to read about hangboarding, this article by Will Anglin is not only the best hangboarding article I’ve ever read but also one of the best articles on training full stop.

Despite this getting over injuries better and quicker is something that allows us to get back to every side of climbing, if you’ve tweaked an A2 maybe this can help.

BUT I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice, this is just what I did after straining my A2 pulley during lockdown, something I'm sure I'm not the only one to have done. I'm not saying this is what you should do.

The injury:

I was doing lots of climbing on our home woody through lockdown and one session I threw for an incut, catching it open handed then reeling into a crimp. There wasn’t a pop but dropping off I knew I’d done something. The base of my middle finger was tender to pressure and any pulling with the middle finger joint at 90 degrees hurt. I had strained my A2 pulley in this finger (self-diagnosed).

I’ve heard before than changing grip is when most finger injuries occur but it’s also very rare that a finger injury happens due to one event, it usually builds up over time and that’s just the straw that breaks the camels back. For me I think there were a couple of main reasons:

  • Too much high intensity climbing on the woody
  • Imbalance of half crimp and open hand

The first of these is self-explanatory, the second was something I didn’t even notice build up but in hindsight was clear. I’d always been quite even in different grip positions but as more of my time climbing was spent on a steep board I was neglecting my open hand. A lot of the holds on my woody have thumb catches which leads to a crimped position in the fingers and I was rarely open handing holds.

After the injury I could still open hand pain free and when forced to do it I realised how weak it was in comparison to my half crimp (20 second hang on an edge I couldn’t hang at all open handed).

My rehab:

  • Rest week
  • Ice therapy (as written about here, it’s probably not what you think) twice a day
  • Steadily harder climbing open handed (and H taped)
  • Start to regain crimp strength

That’s it and it seems to have worked well for me. A month after the injury we were allowed to start climbing outside again and by avoiding holds I had to crimp I could still get outside consistently and got back to a decent level (for me). This was most clear when repeating problems, I felt like I was forced to move better on them to make up for lack of finger strength, especially apparent when open handing the edge of a large incut, effectively making it a much worse hold.

Screengrab of a new problem I did 5 weeks post injury (plus mildly sprained wrist)

 

Weirdly I think in the long run this was good for my climbing. It forced me to improve my open hand strength and stopped reliance on just crimping harder instead of finding better body positions. 2 weeks ago and 6 weeks after the injury I moved from Leicester to Calderdale and back to the gritstone. Famously techy with a lack of proper holds I’ve hardly climbed on grit in the last year; despite this and my lack of finger strength I’ve so far had my best days bouldering on grit ever.

Back on grit, The Lady's not for Gurning which I was happy to do second go, first day back on grit 

 

It’s now pain free to crimp on all but small ratty incuts. I’m starting to crimp holds again when it feels natural and I'm steadily regaining crimp strength.

 

Once again this is just my experience, not a protocol for you to follow. Some links I found very useful for more information on this topic:

https://www.powercompanyclimbing.com/blog/2013/01/pushing-through-tweaks-twinges-and.html

http://davemacleod.blogspot.com/2015/02/make-or-break-dont-let-climbing.html

Ice therapy: http://onlineclimbingcoach.blogspot.com/2010/05/pulley-injuries-article.html

H taping: https://youtu.be/1u3Oy5hUKbw 10 mins in for h taping, best tutorial I’ve seen as it gives detail on where the pressure should be