Rock Stars: Rehab for Rock Climbers


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Almost ten million people lead, fist jam, and free solo their way to the top of rocks, boulders, and mountains. Rock climbing is seeing a surge in popularity, inspired by both an increased number of indoor gyms and young people searching for an extreme sport to challenge their bodies and minds. Rock climbing even debuted in this year’s Olympic games. But as Ivanhoe reports, with any sport comes injuries. And now rock climbers have their own rehab.

Chase James climbs two to three times a week … putting his entire body weight on his fingertips and toes.

“Just this part of my finger is on the rock,” showed James.

But with this unique sport comes unique injuries.

“All of a sudden, just bam, heard a pop. And I knew that I had popped a tendon in my hand,” continued James.

That’s one of the most common injuries for climbers.

Fellow climber and physical therapist, Jason Hooper, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS with UC San Diego Health, is using new therapies to get climbers back out on the rock wall faster.

“The rehab process traditionally can be a little too, like one dimensional, and not hit on the extreme levels of training that a climber might need,” explained Hooper.

This harness with pneumatic pressure allows injured climbers to mimic finger positions of climbers without their full body weight.

“With a push of a button, now I’ve just taken 30 pounds off. So, then when they go and hold on to that, that’s actually going to obviously make them more weightless and it’s going to take away that injury risk,” stated Hooper.

Another machine measures a person’s strength in a single joint and tracks improvement.

James spent three months rehabbing his fingers, strengthening his hands, and perfecting his form at home. Now, he’s back at it.

“This is a portable hang board. It allows you to warm up your fingers before you climb,” shared James.

Making sure he takes the time to warm up before heading up another wall.

We’ve seen how risky it is, but rock climbing is a great form of exercise. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that rock climbing is as good for cardio as running an eight-minute mile. And experts say it can be an effective treatment for anxiety and depression. This is due to a heightened sense of self-esteem, accomplishment, and feeling of self-control.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer. 

REPORT #2905

BACKGROUND: Rock climbing is the sport of climbing rock faces with the help of ropes and special equipment. It is physically demanding, combining fitness and agility with the mental fortitude required to conquer an ascent. Bouldering is a basic form of climbing that can be done indoors or outdoors. It uses short movements without harnesses or ropes as the climber moves over small rocks or boulders. It features routes with a shorter height, but still has many complex and challenging routes. Sport climbing is mostly enjoyed outside. With the assistance of a partner holding a rope, the climber ascends a bolted and established rock face using a harness, ropes, and a belay system. The routes in this type of climb are higher, and therefore require more safety equipment.


ROCK CLIMBING INJURIES: Because of rock climbing’s excessive use of upper extremities, twisted positioning of lower extremities, rockfall, and falling from excessive heights, the sport creates a higher injury potential that range from acute trauma to chronic overuse injuries. The primary strains from climbing are in the hands, elbows and shoulders, and landing injuries affect the foot, ankle, knee and low back. Physical therapists that treat patients with climbing injuries find that hand injuries are the most common tending to be overuse injuries of the flexor tendons of the hand. The second most common injuries are in the elbow region such as tendinitis and nerve entrapment issues. Shoulder injuries are the third area of the upper body with common injuries. Studies that have estimated the prevalence of injuries associated with rock climbing vary between 10% and 81% regardless of the cause. Between 10% and 50% for impact injuries, between 28% and 81% for non-impact acute trauma injuries, and between 33% to 44% for chronic overuse injuries.

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THE ULTIMATE FULL BODY WORKOUT: Experts say running, cycling, rowing, and conventional gym workouts teach the body to perform consistent, repetitive motions that build strength and increase cardiovascular fitness. However, rock climbing is a far more complex movement! Research suggests this kind of dynamic muscle activation is more challenging and fatiguing than simpler, repetitive movements. A 155-pound person that climbs with a moderate effort, can burn between eight and ten calories per minute, which is almost equal to intense cardio workouts like spinning. Studies have discovered activities involving balance, muscle coordination, spatial orientation, and other aspects of climbing can significantly improve a person’s working memory, as well as other cognitive functions. Researchers also believe that climbing could improve the symptoms of those with neurologic conditions like multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Some studies show that eight weeks of rock climbing may also reduce the severity of depression.


* For More Information, Contact:

Heather Buschman, Public Relations

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