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I think I’ve had my fair share of dodgy fingers. It’s not surprising really. In fact actually what IS surprising is that climbers fingers aren’t broken all the time considering what we put them through. Pulleys are the common injury. A2 the norm, with an A1 or A3 feeling the strain now and again. I had a nasty one a few years ago, but no snappage, just a sore spot, nothing that a bit of ice couldn’t sort out. Tendon injuries are maybe worse. Last year the attachment point in the end of my finger got a bit of a wrench, but that seems to have fixed itself now. Spare a thought for Robin Barker who ripped it out completely and required a surgeon to go in and find the tendon end and pull it back down again, or my mate Said, who simply snapped it in half. Earlier this year I broke my little finger too (the bone), smashing it into a bolt on hold when route setting. So that’s my own fault really. Worse still is the Caldwell style injury. Tommy’s involved a circular saw, though any sharp implement should do the trick. Injuries of this style don’t tend to get better, though to be fair, a lack of digit doesn’t seem to have slowed him down at all.
My latest is a swollen joint capsule, annoying me for the last few months, partly by hurting, but also because I didn’t know what it was. A NHS specialist suggested I just get on with it, though bearing down on little crimps didn’t seem a good course of rehabilitation, and having tried it for a while, it obviously wasn’t! So far I’d climbed through every injury I’ve ever had (except elbows 18 years ago), but this time I figured that rather than doing it all wrong I needed some proper advice.
So, straight to the best. I met Volker Schoffl at the Sheffield Injury Symposium in 2010 where he was lecturing on finger and hand injuries in climbers. He’s a climber too, a good one, so he gets it! He’ll be back again this November for a second symposium. He’s also the author of ‘One Move Too Many’. There is no better person to see. Only problem is he lives in Germany. Though not a problem that can’t be sorted out with 4 tubes, 2 trains, 2 flights 7 hours of driving, and a 2 hour walk in the rain through London at 1am, all spread over a pretty tiring 21 hour day. But it was worth it. Inspection was thorough and detailed with ultra sound to look inside. X-ray was cool too, with real time x-raying allowing a view of the hand as it moved around. Volker obviously knows his stuff, and lays it out in clear terms, keeping you in the loop at all times, making sure you can see too. Verdict? Good first; condition of bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and pulleys all good. The bad news? Some aggravation within the joint probably caused by pulling too hard that has led to a small injury. Without letting this settle a small amount of fluid had accumulated causing some pain. Severe crimping hurts, and I can’t touch the pad of my hand with my finger tip by about 10mm. The answer? Well there in no miracle cure for any injury, despite what climbers assume! If a specialist tells us to rest we go and find a different specialist! In this case a cortisone injection was the first stage, right into the joint! This has already taken the swelling down, without it the swelling takes a long time to shift and slows down the healing. Right now it feels fixed! But I’m cautious this time, Volker suggested taking it easy, for a month or so. Strangely that seems inviting, maybe instructions from a real expert are easy to follow, or maybe it’s simply because I’m fed up with scratting around in the rain trying to climb when there isn’t actually anything dry to climb on. Bring on the Indian Summer, by then I’ll be sorted!
July 20, 2012 08:07 AM
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