7 Reasons Why Pulley Injuries Suck

First thing I do if I think I’ve injured a finger is consult Dave MacLeod’s excellent book Make or Break.

In an ironic twist after my last post about learning to crimp, here I am with a tweaked pulley. I’m not totally sure where it came from, there was no major incident, no big pop. I started to notice it was a little sore a couple weeks ago, but like Kris Hampton says, if you rested every time you felt something was a little bit off, you’d never climb. So I tried to be careful and figured the big hold climbing in Rifle and Maple wouldn’t be a problem.

After a short visit to Maple last week, it was clear that my plan wasn’t working as the pulley got more aggravated and crimping started to hurt. Fortunately it doesn’t seem too bad, and I’m really good at rehabing these things, which mostly means some focused hangboard work. And while I was bummed out after the realization sank in that I needed to take a step back right as summer was cranking into full gear, I got over myself pretty quick, but it did get me thinking how much pulley injuries suck, and here’s why.

7) It’s so small it feel almost insignificant

When you look at your hand, and then the rest of your body, it seems bizarre that something so small could have such an impact on our climbing. Of course it makes sense logically, but thinking about the tiny percentage of your body that a pulley makes up, it’s hard to understand how it can be so limiting.

6) The feeling of pulling on a finger that hurts totally sucks

Pulling on a tweaked finger that is injured produces this weak, painful feeling that’s just not what fingers are supposed to feel like. So that’s not fun.

5) You are usually at the top of your game, so it’s hard to mentally readjust

This generally seems to happen when I’m at the top of my game, so it’s hard to mentally readjust from “I’m crushing and can’t wait to try all these hard routes” to “I am going to rehab this in the climbing gym all summer.”

4) Its hard not to obsess and test it every 15 minutes

If the rate of healing was proportional to the number of times I tested it in a day, I’d be healed in a week. For some reason it’s really hard not to test the finger, both pushing on the injured area and test crimping to see if it still hurts. Like it’s going to get magically better every hour.

3) You need to actively rehab it, which means more discipline and dedication

Instead of taking time off, after your initial rest period, active rehab requires discipline and focus, which can be hard to jump back into, especially in summer when I’m all about climbing outside and not being in the gym.

2) It’s stressful to come back to climbing, hoping you aren’t overdoing it

When you do start to come back to climbing, it’s a fine line between an appropriate amount of stress and overdoing it. Mentally this can be draining, as the last thing you want is to re-injure it after you’ve made a bunch of progress.

1) Walk by someone in a wheelchair, and you’ll feel like the worst person ever for being upset about your finger

Like I said, I was bummed out for about 5 minutes, but pretty quickly I was able to keep it in perspective. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our climbing lives that we lose sight of how privileged we truly are (1% anyone?). And then I saw a blind guy walking down the street, and someone in a wheelchair a little while after that, and I realized that a pulley “injury” is really about as insignificant of an injury as you can get.

So my summer has taken an unexpected turn, but I ordered a bunch of bolts and am firing up the hangboard/bolting rehab plan. And maybe someday I’ll figure out why my pulleys are so damn weak…

Locals Corner

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