Improve Your Sport Climbing (15): Injuries, Part 1 (Introduction)


Injuries suck, no matter who you are or what you do. For avid athletes like sport climbers and other styles of climbers, injuries can seem like the end of one’s magical little world, or the end of all that’s truly enjoyable, depending on who you are and how much you love your sport. Obviously, having an active passion can have some inevitable downsides, one being that if you’re injured, this often precludes participation in that activity. Dealing with the sense of loss that occurs as the result of sports injuries should not be downplayed, nor should you (or anyone handling an injury) feel badly if you find yourself with a serious case of the blues as a result of an injury and time away from your sport.

It may seem like a strange choice at first glance to dedicate a series of entries about improving your sport climbing (easily extrapolated in many instances to other kinds of climbing/other sports entirely) to injuries. However, I choose to include this in the series not because I think injuries are an inevitable or necessary consequence of participation in sport climbing, but rather, because a) injuries due to sports/fitness participation are quite common (“At least one of every five emergency department visits for an injury results from participation in sports or recreation,” according to the CDC Injury Research Agenda); b) knowledge about how to prevent, minimize, recover from, intelligently handle and cope with injuries can be an invaluable part of the learning/improvement process in terms of sports performance; and c) even if you may personally be so blessed as to never sustain any sort of injury from sport climbing, training for climbing, or from any other sport, you will likely have partners, friends and colleagues who do get injured or flirt with injury – and you might be able to offer them valuable support and insight if you have a greater knowledge base about injuries yourself.

Keep in mind as you read this series that while I’m both an avid athlete myself and a training professional (certified personal trainer and certified yoga instructor), I am not a medical or healthcare professional. Therefore, I am not suggesting or implying that any of the insights or advice in this series should be used as a replacement for the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of sports injuries by educated professionals like physicians and physical therapists who are trained to do exactly that. Rather, my aim is to help guide you along the path toward injury-free climbing and training experiences, using many “you probably shouldn’t do this unless you want to invite injury” and “oops, I did it again” episodes taken from my own past experiences helping to illustrate my points about injury prevention, recovery, and coping. Note too that while I don’t consider myself to be injury-prone, I have been climbing for a long time and I do have some predispositions that have led me down the path of injury numerous times (though at the moment I am – most thankfully and joyously – injury-free).

In this upcoming series of entries, then, I’ll cover an array of aspects of sport climbing injuries – not, however, specific injuries and how to diagnose and/or treat them, which would be totally inappropriate given my knowledge base. Rather, I’ll start with general injury prevention tips next time, and take it from there into injury prevention and tips for handling specific types of injuries – overtraining, overuse and acute/sudden injuries. “So I’m Injured, Now What?” follows this, with basic guidelines for handling injuries smartly, getting the most out of the time you’re injured, and getting back on the rock with no residual injury nagging you in as little time as possible. And hopefully, you’ll read all of this and never need to use any of it, save for the injury prevention tips – because the best climbing and training plan is the one that causes zero injuries first and foremost, and secondly, yields the greatest gains in whatever areas you care most about improving upon in your own climbing.

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. My designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing and training!

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