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Question about "thumb-locking" dangers
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pirateswin


Aug 20, 2010, 1:29 PM
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Question about "thumb-locking" dangers
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One of my instructors wrote a lesson plan and included the thumb-lock technique (in this case, crimping with four digits, then locking the thumb over the first two for more power). I have heard that this can damage tendons in your smaller fingers (most notably, the pointer and middle fingers) because it torques the tendons out of line. Any medical info on this? I do NOT want to be teaching it in class if it can injure patrons. Please let me know what you have experienced/read. Thanks!

Lorena Wallace
PSU Outdoor Program, Climbing Center Coordinator


rtwilli4


Aug 20, 2010, 2:30 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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RUN RUN RUN!

You aren't getting a good answer to that question on this site...

I'll be back to say I told you so.


sspssp


Aug 20, 2010, 2:42 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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Some climber's can get away with this (without injury) and some can't.

I learned the hard way not to crimp anything. All of my face climbing is with an "open" grip. I used to routinely get finger injuries crimping 11- climbs. "Back in the day", I could climb "crimpy" 5.12s with an open grip.


pirateswin


Aug 20, 2010, 2:45 PM
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Thought I might as well give it a shot...


charlie.elverson


Aug 20, 2010, 3:30 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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strength training is best done with an open grip anyway, as far as I've ever been told. Has anyone ever heard differently?


pirateswin


Aug 20, 2010, 3:34 PM
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Re: [charlie.elverson] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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Not teaching strength-training- just demonstrating ways to grip different holds.


curt


Aug 20, 2010, 3:43 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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pirateswin wrote:
One of my instructors wrote a lesson plan and included the thumb-lock technique (in this case, crimping with four digits, then locking the thumb over the first two for more power). I have heard that this can damage tendons in your smaller fingers (most notably, the pointer and middle fingers) because it torques the tendons out of line. Any medical info on this? I do NOT want to be teaching it in class if it can injure patrons. Please let me know what you have experienced/read. Thanks!

Lorena Wallace
PSU Outdoor Program, Climbing Center Coordinator

I've never heard of such a thing and I crimp almost everything--including slopers, if I can find a way to do it. In fact the only tendon/pulley injuries I've had in 30+ years of climbing have come from gripping pockets with an open hand grip. I no longer climb as hard as I used to, but can still get up some 5.12s and V8s if they happen to suit me.

Curt


rtwilli4


Aug 20, 2010, 3:52 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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Ok I'll answer too... but we are all a bunch of idiots here, just a warning.

Open hand crimping has shown to be less stressful on tendons and ligaments. Just from spending so much time around sport climbers I can say that ligament damage in the fingers is much more common than any other hand injury.

Closed hand crimping puts stress on more of the ligaments in your fingers than open hand. Each bend in your finger brings another set of ligaments into play.

Closed hand crimping is more stressful on tendons as well... maybe more so that ligaments.

There are two tendons in each finger, the profundus, which goes to the tip of your finger, and the superficialis, which stops before first knuckle of your finger, the biggest one where your A2 pulley ligaments are.

When you close your hand you are shortening the tendon and putting the entire load on the profundus. With a open hand, you are putting the stress over the entire profundus AND the superficialis.

When I began climbing crimpy stuff I was able to climb 5.10's with pretty poor technique, putting a ton of stress on my fingers. It wasn't until I started bouldering and climbing steeper stuff that my technique imroved. I attribute my lack of injury to the fact that I never use closed hand technique. I used open hand simply because I have longer fingers and it seemed to work better.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a doctor or a medical professional of any kind. I grew up in a family of PT's and have discussed this with them a few times.


colatownkid


Aug 20, 2010, 4:06 PM
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PM sent.


milesenoell


Aug 20, 2010, 5:02 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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pirateswin wrote:
One of my instructors wrote a lesson plan and included the thumb-lock technique (in this case, crimping with four digits, then locking the thumb over the first two for more power). I have heard that this can damage tendons in your smaller fingers (most notably, the pointer and middle fingers) because it torques the tendons out of line. Any medical info on this? I do NOT want to be teaching it in class if it can injure patrons. Please let me know what you have experienced/read. Thanks!

Lorena Wallace
PSU Outdoor Program, Climbing Center Coordinator

If the question is whether it is safer to crimp with or without a thumb over the top, my understanding was that if the thumb stays over the last digits you are okay, but that if the thumb ends up behind the joints, it can increase the torque (in bad ways).

Disclaimer: I don't know crap about this other than dealing with my own over use injuries.


Nick864


Aug 20, 2010, 7:06 PM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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Yes crimping over the top ("thumb locking") can put more stress on the tendons. Very early beginners usually dont have the strength to pull hard enough to injure themselves (some naturally strong people are an exception). However, a climber who has been at it for 3 or 4 months is both strong enough to injure himself, and the tendons have not had enough time to get strong. Tendons take longer to strengthen than muscles. As a general rule, it is probably safer to just teach open hand crimping in the gym. It is better training, and it is safer. Even after 10 years of climbing, I still avoid using my thumb over the top in the gym, and yes... I did pop an A2 pully early in my climbing career doing just that. Stick to open hand, and it will only bring your "level" of gym climbing down for 2-3 weeks until you get used to it. (Who cares how hard you climb in a gym anyways...) I know quite a few guys (no girls though) who have had the same experience.


irregularpanda


Aug 20, 2010, 11:50 PM
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pirateswin wrote:
One of my instructors wrote a lesson plan and included the thumb-lock technique (in this case, crimping with four digits, then locking the thumb over the first two for more power). I have heard that this can damage tendons in your smaller fingers (most notably, the pointer and middle fingers) because it torques the tendons out of line. Any medical info on this? I do NOT want to be teaching it in class if it can injure patrons. Please let me know what you have experienced/read. Thanks!

Lorena Wallace
PSU Outdoor Program, Climbing Center Coordinator

Ninjas are way better than pirates, and when they win, you didn't even know it happened.


onceahardman


Aug 21, 2010, 6:11 PM
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Re: [rtwilli4] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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YUCK! you should have listened to your PT brethren and sistren better...

In reply to:
There are two tendons in each finger, the profundus, which goes to the tip of your finger, and the superficialis, which stops before first knuckle of your finger, the biggest one where your A2 pulley ligaments are.

There are 2 flexor tendons in each finger, in addition to extensor tendons, and tendons related to the intrinsic musculature of the hand.

Flexor digitorum profundus (aka "the profundus") inserts on the distal phalanx. Flexor digitorum superficialis (these are usually abbreviated FDP and FDS) inserts on the middle phalanx. Using phrases like "before the first knuckle" is ambiguous, and leads to confusion. The language of anatomy is quite precise. Among the reasons this site gets slammed for poor advice is that people who don't know the anatomy offer ambiguities, then argue when called on it.

In reply to:
When you close your hand you are shortening the tendon

No. The length of the tendon does not change. The length of the associated muscle changes. The tendon glides through the various sheathes and under the various reinforcing pulleys.

That said, your instincts are actually right on the money. The increased forces generated on the pulleys when crimping are obvious, if people would just draw out the force diagram. Curt's personal experience aside (which I highly respect), the increased incidence of pulley injuries while crimping is pretty well established.

Theoretically, increasing extension of the DIP passively, by using the thumb, would increase outward force on the A2 and A4 pulleys. It's uncomfortable as hell for me, and I wouldn't teach it.


rtwilli4


Aug 21, 2010, 10:10 PM
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onceahardman wrote:
YUCK! you should have listened to your PT brethren and sistren better...

In reply to:
There are two tendons in each finger, the profundus, which goes to the tip of your finger, and the superficialis, which stops before first knuckle of your finger, the biggest one where your A2 pulley ligaments are.

There are 2 flexor tendons in each finger, in addition to extensor tendons, and tendons related to the intrinsic musculature of the hand.

Flexor digitorum profundus (aka "the profundus") inserts on the distal phalanx. Flexor digitorum superficialis (these are usually abbreviated FDP and FDS) inserts on the middle phalanx. Using phrases like "before the first knuckle" is ambiguous, and leads to confusion. The language of anatomy is quite precise. Among the reasons this site gets slammed for poor advice is that people who don't know the anatomy offer ambiguities, then argue when called on it.

In reply to:
When you close your hand you are shortening the tendon

No. The length of the tendon does not change. The length of the associated muscle changes. The tendon glides through the various sheathes and under the various reinforcing pulleys.

That said, your instincts are actually right on the money. The increased forces generated on the pulleys when crimping are obvious, if people would just draw out the force diagram. Curt's personal experience aside (which I highly respect), the increased incidence of pulley injuries while crimping is pretty well established.

Theoretically, increasing extension of the DIP passively, by using the thumb, would increase outward force on the A2 and A4 pulleys. It's uncomfortable as hell for me, and I wouldn't teach it.

Yea, thanks for correcting me. First part I'll admit I'm obviously a little fuzzy on and as far as the technical descriptions of anatomy... well that's why I typed the DISCLAIMER.

And the "shortening the tendon" part... well I just did a really poor job of explaining what I mean.

I guess understanding the very basic elements and actually explaining it correctly are two different things.

I'm certainly not going to argue with you... thanks for putting up the proper information.


uni_jim


Aug 21, 2010, 10:19 PM
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open hand to train, but on lead, I'll Crimp my heart out!


Alpine07


Aug 21, 2010, 10:26 PM
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rtwilli4 wrote:
RUN RUN RUN!

You aren't getting a good answer to that question on this site...

I'll be back to say I told you so.

Haha! Awesome


Partner j_ung


Aug 22, 2010, 5:35 AM
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Re: [pirateswin] Question about "thumb-locking" dangers [In reply to]
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pirateswin wrote:
One of my instructors wrote a lesson plan and included the thumb-lock technique (in this case, crimping with four digits, then locking the thumb over the first two for more power). I have heard that this can damage tendons in your smaller fingers (most notably, the pointer and middle fingers) because it torques the tendons out of line. Any medical info on this? I do NOT want to be teaching it in class if it can injure patrons. Please let me know what you have experienced/read. Thanks!

Lorena Wallace
PSU Outdoor Program, Climbing Center Coordinator

I doubt the answer is so cut and dried. For me (and I suspect for a lot of climbers) bigger factors are the number of fingers involved on the hold and personal fitness level vs. fatigue. I think I'm far more likely to hurt myself in a shallow two-finger pocket my third day in a row climbing than on a small four-finger closed crimp, be it open or closed, after three days off... with a decent warm up behind me... blah blah blah...

Closed crimps do increase the amount of force you can exert on a hold, so it's possible that the increased force might pass some sort of threshold that an open crimp wouldn't have passed. However, this certainly doesn't preclude the chance of an injury occurring in an open crimp. Every person is different, as is every crimp and every tendon. Personally, I think you should teach it, but add the caveat that it might increase the chance of injury. Then include those things above that, for most climbers, just equal smart climbing.


(This post was edited by j_ung on Aug 22, 2010, 5:36 AM)


pirateswin


Aug 25, 2010, 9:19 AM
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Thanks everyone! Excellent responses.

And, no. Ninjas do NOT win. Pirates can fight dirty- they don't have to adhere to all that "honor" bullshit. Pirates win.


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