This blog post is for those coaches and those athletes who when I wrote this article in December, I had to tell NOT to compete during the ABS Nationals the past weekend...
I feel bad constantly reminding our community of this but it's my job.
Above all else, the end goal (for all of us) is to ensure that you have a future in climbing. That is what truly matters.
Putting this first and forefront, the enjoyment of our sport for years to come should outweigh a weekend of ego. I've been there in making these tough decisions. My thoughts are with you if you know what I'm talking about.
The past week (at the time it was early Dec 2016), I had seen TWO climbers with growth plate stress fractures and ONE youth who had fibrous growths (in response to inflammation from friction and compression and a hereditary predisposition) who had hopes of competing the next weekend at the USACIimbing ABSNationals. The first was a definitive no (I was proud, he came to that conclusion on his own- not an easy choice for a young athlete with stars in his eyes) and the second, we made the decision together (with him and his mother having the final say) on the nodule which were pressing into his flexor tendons, creating damage with each and every use while climbing. I hope they stuck with our decision and chose wisely, but at the end of the day, I dish out the research and the education and they choose as they will.
Left: Recurring Irritated Growth Plate fracture in a young climber. Culprit: daily basketball not allowing it to heal.
We all know this scenario- Too often we ignore what our body is telling us because we want immediate satisfaction. It's hard to be an athlete and to be told that you cannot compete in a big event, even harder when you are that athletes doctor and you are trying to find a way to ask THEM to make the right decision on their own.
How do you go about telling an athlete
what is best for them??
It's like dangling a carrot- or a candy bar- or a really good climbing flick right in front of your face while you are focused with your heart and soul on something else entirely.
I've devised a list of important notes to help you navigate through these rough waters... Just be advised, they might not take your advice, but a little bit might just put the seed in their mind for future injuries:
1. Focus on the FUTURE.
If we can look through this injury and at the long term goals of the climber in question, we often see that competing or training on this injury would create a setback, or even wreck havoc on future goals.
Finding out that patients highest goals and helping them to create a plan to get there is what they are here for in the first place. Training (or competing) through injury have no place in this step ladder- unless they are about to go into a World Cup event in which they have a really high chance of winning, or they are about to climb to save their own life. These are the only two major reasons I could see allowing a climber to continue through an injury... Especially one that could limit their future in climbing altogether.
2. Learn what's happening under the skin.
It's not often that we think on a cellular level. In injuries, this is often my first task- in teaching you what exactly the injury pertains to, what the tissue looks like before and after the injury, and what we can hope to achieve with unweighting it while it has healed. Injuries that are bone on tendon, include 'snapping' of tissues (tendons, ligaments, or the 'unknown"), or anything making grinding or grating noises probably means that while you are climbing on it, it is continuing to create friction and changes at the cellular level. If a climber can understand that training or competing on something of this caliber, they might decide to hit their homecare more heavily, or to listen to their body before this issue arises.
If the climber is a crimp addict
if they do it all day,
their risks of injury skyrocket...
Much like driving your car with the 'check engine light on'- I can only guess as to what might occur if the athlete were to climb on it, and to give them the end choice of if they are willing to take that risk, and if the risk itself is worth the reward.
3. Let Pain be Your Guide: And plan accordingly.
Only one variable
should be upped at a time...
4. Slow the Process
Change any training periodization to fit the bodies schedule.
Often, progressing through new training zones too quick is too much for the body of an unseasoned climber (or any athlete for that matter).
Injuries or overtraining occur when either the body doesn't have time to respond to the changes you are making or it is still healing from the last changes you made. In any good training plan, we have these periods where we slowly increase the stresses each week until a 4th week, where we go easy and allow the body to fully heal from what we have done to it.
A professional athlete might have gone through this for 4 or 5 YEARS before their body allows them to up the ante to a level that actually pushes them to their peak. Don't take my word for it, go out and talk with a coach. We have also to take into account other variables such as our sleep schedule, the stressors at work (and in relationships)
and how our body responds to each added layer. Time, speed, endurance, or explosive motions all need to be accounted for in the athlete that is prone to injury. These variables should all be included in a good self-made or professional schedule and only one variable should be upped at a time (while lowering another one so the body isn't overtaxed).
GOAL: Keep a diary or a log, like the one I lay out in my book, Climbing Injuries Solved and follow it. This way you can be abreast of your levels of each and what your body is telling you day in and day out over the course of several weeks or months.
5. Cut the Crimps:
Seriously, avoid hang boarding/systems if you or the climber you work with is a crimp addict. Especially if you or they have a finger or pulley injury.
This is cause is THE most common cause of pulley injuries at my office. I love to crimp, I train it ALL day long. And I hangboard, and I crimp crimp crimP!!!!
Your body (or your athlete) already has enough time spent crimping to create damage, load more on there and if they do it all day every day while climbing, their risks of finger related injuries skyrocket.
Climbing 7 days a week...
This part of the article is just for you
We are fragile machines made of soft flexible tissues that need time to heal and YEARS of training to progress. MacLeod in 9 out of 10 climbers make the same Mistakes points out that your hangboard results might take YEARS to show up, don't expect a miracle in a month or two, but if you press you CAN expect an injury. This is the bread and butter of my e-practice. You just can't help yourself. (I get it, me too! But my addition is crack climbing and those scary towers).
GOAL: Behave yourself and your advice to others concerning time and crimping. It is a loaded gun and only to be used as the 'cherry on top' after all other training has been done. Use it sparingly, like a fine spice. I've ruined too many good dishes by putting too many spices in there, something cant fix after you've done it.
6. Reinforce Time Off as Being Important.
It is. Period. If you are pushing hard and climbing 7 days a week, this part of the article is just for you.
An athlete improves the most when they are taking time off after working hard
The body can recover and re-develop itself to fit the tasks and requirements of what climbing asks of it. If you are a coach, ask your athlete to completely rest their climbing regions such as the fingers hands elbows and shoulders on off-days. If they must enjoy their activities, to cross train in a sport or activity that doesn't aggravate these regions (running/cycling/hiking) and NOT gaming, handball, tennis, or excessive computer use over 1.5 hours per night).
GOAL: Keep stress low and use your off-days to take a break if it feels that you need one, or if you are ready to go, work on your weaknesses in a different field while resting your climbing regions (especially those forearms and fingers).
7. Sleep isn't for Slackers:
Sleep is very important to allow your body to process the training sequences and to heal from your self-inflicted damage.
Sleeping increases the chances that you spend more time in the REM Phase of Sleep (which helps the body to heal).
GOAL: Get atleast 7 hours a night (with 9 being best) to ensure your body is ready for what you ask of it.
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Thanks for reading!!