What if medical care is required?

Silvio Reffo

“Recovering from an injury is never easy:often the desire to start training again is so strong that we forget a few important things.”

In the life of a climber, it is normal to stumble across some kind of injury, more or less serious. From an epidemiological point of view, 91% of injuries occur in the upper limbs. Of this, 52% occurs at the level of the fingers and, in second place, at the shoulder.

How to behave, therefore, in the event of an accident?

First of all, it is important to understand the extent of the damage, in order to undertake the most appropriate therapeutic treatment. Subsequently, seeking the assistance of specialized health personnel (doctor or physiotherapist), may be the first, fundamental step on the road to recovery. Homemade remedies often slows down recovery times, if they do not make the situation worse.

A good idea is to follow the protocol from the acronym POLICE.

P: protection. Regardless of the type of accident, functional rest is mandatory, at least in the first period. Protecting the damaged tissues immediately after the accident is essential to promoting tissue recovery.

OL: optimal load. If the injury is minimal, total rest may not be necessary, sometimes it is sufficient to reduce the training and change the load.

I: ice. In the early inflammatory stages, ice is an excellent remedy for reducing pain and edema (swelling). By reducing the pain it is possible to recovery mobility quickly, without circulatory stasis and hence speeding up recovery time.

C: compression. Compression with a bandage is also a way to decrease the edema (swelling) and the pain. Obviously, not all areas of the body can benefit from this type of treatment, but for the fingers, elastic tape can be very useful for relieving and reducing swelling. After the first two or three days of the onset of the injury, there is maximum expression of inflammation, it is good to start and signals the recovery phase. Passive mobilization is definitely an excellent remedy for reducing pain and recovering joint mobility, often compromised after injury. Even muscle contraction exercises can be started early. In the first phases, the isometric contraction is preferred without displacement, an exercise that involves a simple muscular activation. This type of contraction has the important function of modulating pain and starting to reactivate the muscles.

Subsequently, it is important to introduce the concentric and eccentric contractions, to rebuilt strength. The strengthening exercises can also be performer in a state of pain, which however, must never exceed 3/10 of the numerical pain scale (NRS) and which must totally disappear after the exercise.

In the less serious accidents the return to vertical activities can take place gradually, already after about 10 days, other injuries, instead require a little longer, several weeks, if not several months.

Some common advice to all injuries to fingers is to use tape. Tape may be used when returning to the walls, it must and can be used for many months up to one year even if the pain has disappeared while climbing.

It is important to graduate the load when returning to climbing after an injury and above all you will have to develop strength in the antagonist muscles alongside a good general muscular balance.

Never underestimate the pain and learn to listen to your body and its messages, the way to becoming a better climber is not short, but listening to your body will make it easier!

Have fun climbing!