Despite not being professionals at this whole injury-recovery thing, we would like to share with the public some tips and tricks we have after years of climbing experience. Since many of our girls are facing struggles in their own recovery journey, we decided to dedicate this post to them, whilst wishing them the best in recovery. We also hope all of you out there are training hard, taking care of yourselves, and most importantly, staying injury-free!
(Disclaimer: these tips are NOT given by professionals, and are only advices given through experience. Should you require professional help, please seek assistance from the required experts instead)
There are 2 common knee injuries for climbers, mainly ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries, which can be injured through deep heel hooks, where one places the heel near chest level, thereby using it as a leverage to lift your body weight or Meniscus injuries, through awkward landings which causes the weight of the body to be misplaced.
How to treat:
- REST. We all know it’s something easy to say, but extremely difficult to do, since everyone else around you is climbing so much.
- Strengthen hamstrings & quadriceps & core so that you can use your muscles for leverage (but only when you are about 80% recovered!)
- Hamstring exercises
Bridge exercises: Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms on the ground then push your hips upwards. This works the gluts and the hamstrings. Hold the position for a while then lower. At the start, use push with both feet on the floor, then slowly progress to using one leg only.
Hamstring catches: Lie flat with your chest facing the floor and lift your legs up 90 degrees. Let your legs fall naturally (only due to gravity) and catch it before it falls to the horizontal. You can slowly progress to use ankle weights to increase loads on the hamstring.
- Quadriceps exercises
Resistance band knee extension: Tie a resistance band around your ankle and the other end to the chair. Keeping your back straight, slowly straighten your knee.
- Core exercises
Simple crunches, sit-ups, planks will be sufficient.
By including these simple stretches below, knee injuries can possibly be prevented
In the past, I was well-known as the perpetually injured one. In J1, I tripped over a mat and sprained my ankle 3 days before Pumpfest 2012 (I still went for it anyway). Being overzealous (as one always starts out as after discovering climbing), I was at the wall in school everyday. My dynamic climbing style didn’t help either, and soon both wrists became less than functional. My teacher would know that I had arrived in class because of the koyok smell, and yes I was frustrated that I couldn’t commit 100% while climbing. It was painful to twist my wrist inwards, and I did what everyone advised me to do - REST. Yet 3 or 4 months later, the pain did not change much and I still relied on taping my wrists.
I decided to actively do something about the problem, and got a referral to Changi Sports Medicine Centre. I had a revelation of sorts (finally!) when the physiotherapist I met told me that the wrist pain was due to the weak tendon/ muscles, and it had to be strengthened through the following exercises:
So these are basically wrist extension and flexion (the last picture) exercises, and even though it was painful doing them, I did them consistently until the pain disappeared! :) Up till today, I have not had any recurring injury of my wrists. When they feel strained, I just do these exercises either using the force of my other hand or resistance band!
So, for my final tips…
- If resting doesn’t work → do something about it! I think my wrists would still be dysfunctional if I had not made that appointment with the sports medicine centre in Changi Hospital. I recommend them (get a referral through a polyclinic! It’s cheaper) as they have lots of equipment for physiotherapy, and I feel that a consultation for an exact diagnosis of your injury would give you a peace of mind (instead of wondering how long more you have to rest for and not climb)
(credit: Gwendolyn Chow)
To be honest, at the start of my climbing journey, I would wonder how fingers could even get injured. I used to think that injuries would happen to anyone but me, but now I know better. Prevention of an injury is definitely much better than finding ways and means to treat it, and I've definitely learnt to invest a couple of minutes before and after my climbs to warm up and stretch properly.
- For my fingers, I typically follow this simple warm up, holding each position for just 3-seconds and repeating it 10 times.
- A. Start with a straight hand.
- B. Slowly crimp fingers into a hook fist (knuckles stay aligned with the wrist).
- C. Roll fingers down into a full fist.
- D. Transition into a flat fist.
Focus on the ability to maximally close each position.
Stretching after my climbs is very important too if not my fingers will always feel very stiff. I spend a lot of time after climbing stretching and massaging my fingers. The stretches I do are generally simple ones which just involve opening up and closing the joints of each individual finger as well as stretching them laterally.
- Opening up the joints is just lifting each finger back away from the rest of the fingers while keeping the other fingers straight
- Closing the joints is the opposite where the finger is pressed into the palm at each joint and the other fingers are straight
- Lateral stretches involve pulling each finger sideways away from the others towards the thumb, and then towards the pinky.
- And I do a couple of finger 'splits' too sometimes by just pushing one finger into the palm and pressing the rest of the fingers backwards.
During an injury, the main thing I do is actually rest completely especially for the first two weeks at least depending on how bad it is, then I'll gradually ease back into climbing with taping, massage and stretching. I think at the end of the day it is most important to listen to your body and know our limits with regards to staying injury-free!
(credit: Pang Xin Xian)
Frankly speaking, I’ve never encountered any major injury thus far besides minor ankle injuries.
As ankles are really important in allowing you to step hard and secure THAT elusive foothold, I personally believe one should take care of his/ her ankles.
Here are some warm-ups one could do before diving straight into training:
- Ankle rolls
Being the simplest exercise to do, I usually start off with this exercise. 5 reps of this in a slo-mo for each ankle is sufficient.
- Ankle flexion and extension
Not sure what these are called but this is what I call them!! On days where I forget to bring my resistance band, I use a towel instead.
- Ankle lateral stretches.
Always let your body know that you are about to engage in some form of strenuous activity! Without pre-climbing stretches, your body would not be ready to push its limits. This results in common injuries that could’ve been prevented easily from the start. In the event that you do unfortunately injure yourself, don’t be shy to ask for ice bags from the gym. Trust me, they’d be more than willing to help you out.
Here are some last words we have for all of you strong people:
- Do try to attempt some, if not all of the stretches mentioned above. Besides getting your muscles ready for your climb, these exercises/ stretches raise your heart rate, and get your blood pumping. This way, you’d be able to move better on the wall, and climb to your heart’s content!
- At all times, try to land properly on both feet and use the buttocks to absorb the weight of your body. Landing with feet shoulder-width apart, and the feet square on the mats is a good idea of how one should land. Don’t resist the tendency to fall on your back or sides, because they are better at absorbing the force. However, do not try to land with outstretched hands as it may result in elbow/ wrist injuries.
- Make calculated risks - if you think your injury is minor and can be climbed through with the help of tape - don’t be stupid! Know that there are some moves which will be riskier than others. Have a left shoulder injury? Avoid routes which involve a leftward typewriter move. Wrist injuries? Avoid routes with slopers. Same for finger injuries - avoid routes which are just full of crimps. Easier said than done of course, but set routes with moves that will not risk your injury, and stay psyched on those instead! Always question if climbing that move is worth the risk of worsening your current injury.
Have patience, be kind to yourselves, and listen to your body! Happy climbing! J
Article by: Foo Yee Lin Jovin, Gwendolyn Chow, Jasmine Chua Li Xian, Pang Xin Xian, Phoebe Lim, Verosil Patrice Claire Bayo