Lucas Goren Finger Injury Background

Posted: 10-17-2012

Following, is some background information pertaining to Lucas Goren’s finger injury story. I hope that his story provides perspective and valuable information for other climbing who are experiencing set backs in their training due to finger injuries. We look forward to future updates as to how Lucas heals, rehabs, recovers, and bounces back from his injury. We will continue to chronicle his progress on this training blog. Stay tuned!

Lucas Goren’s Finger Injury Story:

Recently, or at least within the last three months, I strained a pulley in my middle finger, on my right hand. While living in California over the summer I had the luxury of being able to climb almost every single day, so I did. Unfortunately, a large volume of hard climbing combined with intense training served as the perfect conditions to create a chronic injury.

At least five days a week, and often more, for two months, I would be at the local crag working my long-term project, running through the hills of my town, or living under the 45 degree wall at my local gym. On most, if not all, of those days I would supplement my training with a session on the Beastmaker 2000 fingerboard when I got home from the crag or the gym or a run. My workouts were loosely structured and relied upon repeater sets on pockets since my project was composed of many pockets.

The logic behind my decision to train high volume and intensity simultaneously was simple – due to the large amount of time I had to dedicate to climbing and the lack of physical stressors (see-life of leisure) I figured my body should be able to handle and adapt to this workload and proceed to squeeze the water out of my project. Predictably, this was not the case and as the summer wore on my form got progressively worse. It seems as if the combination of too much work and too little rest had put me far below my best and set me up for a period of rest, logically. Unfortunately, I did not heed this message from my body and at some point my finger began to hurt and swell, though not enough for me to discontinue training.

Fast forward several weeks and I am back in school – 3000 miles away from an unsent project. Luckily, there are several bouldering competitions on the horizon for me to direct my attention towards. I begin to train again with focus on power and volume. Almost every session, several days a week, I boulder hard problems, campus, get on the system wall and end with a core session.

As you have probably figured out, I never made it to the competition. The stress of my training transformed my niggling finger pain into a full-blown injury. As a result of not knowing how to treat the injury and being in denial of its severity I continued to train on it as it got progressively more swollen and incapable of handling the large forces that climbing put on it. At one point it was so bad I couldn’t crimp and even holding a jug hurt. I emailed Timy and he quickly laid out a host of treatments that would help my injury when I found out what exactly was wrong with it. Due to his experience he quickly concluded that I was too emotionally invested in my climbing to be logical and objective about the nature of my injury and suggested I go to a physician to get a proper diagnosis. It was Timy’s mind -reading technique that convinced me to go to the doctor and receive a diagnosis.

Due to my location in the heart of the city of Boston I had a long list of qualified outer extremity and sports doctors to choose from. After choosing a well-reviewed outer-extremity orthopedist I was quickly seen and diagnosed with an A2 pulley strain in my middle finger. Now, it is important to note that I failed to alert the doctor that despite retaining almost full use of my hand, it is that tiny percentage of use (i.e. pulling on small holds) that was most important to me and should therefore be treated aggressively. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of severe injuries that make way into his practice, my doctor was satisfied that my injury did not impede my quality of life and as such he, understandably, saw no reason to recommend potentially expensive treatments that would expedite healing and lesson the prescribed 6-8 week recovery time. I mention this because I believe that unless your doctor is familiar with climbers and their injuries it may be necessary to provide extra information and/or ask your doctor specifically for treatments that shorten recovery time and get you back on the rock.

Having said that, my doctor did supply me with a months worth of coban wrap, which is a compression tape that can be bought at any drug store. The concept behind the tape is simple and effective – when wrapped lightly the tape acts as a surrogate pulley, letting your pulley heal and avoid strain in daily activities, while simultaneously compressing the area, thus facilitating blood flow and recovery as well as removing swelling from the taped area. The instructions given to me by the hand therapist dictated that, during the day, I lightly wrap around 7-8 inches of tape around the afflicted pulley. She reiterated several times that the taping would have to be light, with no tightening on my part, because the compression nature of the tape in tandem with a tight wrap would cut circulation off from the finger. Apparently that would be counterproductive to healing. Furthermore, when sleeping at night, in order to take advantage of the lack of activity and strain on the pulley, it is important to lightly wrap the entire finger in one layer of tape. This compresses the built up swelling, which, during the day will move above and below the taped area, out of your finger altogether. As well as using tape, I have been doing contrast bath therapies. Contrast baths utilize hot and cold water (at least 30 degrees difference) to facilitate blood flow in the hands and thus expedite healing. The therapy is simple and requires intervals of submerging your hand in hot water and then cold. The only rules are to always start with hot water and end with cold and run the intervals from 1-4 minutes each for at least a total time of 12-15 minutes.

Also, I have planned prolo therapy injections with a qualified Naturopath in order to shorten the transition from my return to (hard) climbing. Although I should be back on the rock within 6-8 weeks, the use of prolo therapy could speed up my return to hard climbing sooner as opposed to rehabilitating on jugs for a long period of time.

Lucas Goren
Boston, MA