Tape and Other Catastrophes
Contributed to Chockstone by
Dr Julian Saunders (BMSc BSc MHSc osteopathy) of
Athlon Sports Medicine.
WHY USE FINGER TAPE?
Lesson Number 1: tape is not made of collagen; that
is, the strong protein that forms tissues such as tendons, ligaments and
pullies. Err der! Quite obvious really, but you would be stunned at the
delusional capacity of an injured climber.
Pullies are small straps of tissue which loop over the tendons and hold them
close to the bone. Taping to give strength to an injured pullie, and hence
continuing to climb, is an exercise in futility. You might as well offer
yourself to the God of Injuries and hurl yourself into the Volcano of
Degeneration, for you will surely relinquish yourself to a progressively
worsening condition. So before you hurl yourself over this precipice, use
the most important tool available to you: your brain.
There are only two reasons to tape a pullie injury: firstly, to limit
potentially damaging finger motion; and secondly, to remind yourself that
you have an injury. Don’t underestimate the latter as a rehabilitation tool.
Injury recovery is about letting an acute injury settle and stabilize, and
avoiding aggravating activity whilst it is healing. Following this you can
begin to strengthen the pullie back to its original capacity, plus more if
the injury was a result of weakness rather than an abnormal shock load. It
is during this phase that taping can be useful.
As per Lesson Number1, tape does not replace your
pullies, nor does it supplement their strength. If you get the tape tight
enough to do so, all you will end up with is a self-inflicted necrosing
finger. (For more information regarding pullies go to
www.athlon.com.au). I have seen a
vast array of taping methods, with the intricate ‘figure 8’ around the joint
being probably the most popular. Essentially these techniques are a waste of
time, as they are attempting to unload the injured pullie system while
maintaining range of movement. Done tight enough it may actually achieve
this, and then your finger will progress through a panorama of colours,
culminating in a lovely blue/black that will match the toe nail you stubbed
last week. Like the toe nail, your finger may well fall off! Though probably
sooner and certainly more smelly.
Realistically, taping can only be afforded in two of many possible
climbing-related finger injuries. They are injuries to the A2 and A3
pullies. If torn, pain is typically felt at the sides of the injured digit,
most often on the little finger side of the ring or index finger. Pain can,
however, be located anywhere between the first and last joints. It can be
sharp or dull whilst climbing, though is usually dull after you have
finished and cooled down. It is normally aggravated by crimping and direct
pressure. Having a gentle feel with your thumb is a good way of locating the
To be effective, correct taping of A2 and A3 pullies must result in
restricting the ability of the finger to bend in the middle. To apply the
correct technique, first note that there are three creases on the front of
each finger; one at the base, middle and end. With your finger straight,
tape from half way between the first two and finish half way between the
second and third, overlapping the tape 50%. You will quickly realize that
your capacity to crimp is zero. Perfect. It will be great for your climbing,
as studies have shown open hand to have greater endurance.
This method works for both A2 and A3 injuries. If you cannot bend the middle
joint (known as the proximal interphalangeal joint), the A3 pullie is
directly protected. Climbing is such that, in most instances, if you cannot
bend this joint then you will not bend the one below it, thereby indirectly
protecting the A2 pullie. If you find a way to bend this latter joint whilst
holding on …don’t, e.g. pulling on a flat jug.
Lesson Number 2: recovery is a process. Consider pain as an index of the
damage you are doing. If it is not painful, you are probably fine. And this
includes during your warm up. Reduce the tightness of the tape slowly and
progressively over a number of weeks depending on whether it hurts following
Remember, this is a guide only. You must first see a qualified medical
specialist to assess and diagnose your injury. This may be anyone from a
myotherapist to a hand specialist, and has more to do with their
understanding of climbing injuries than the number of degrees they have.
Most medicos will not have had much experience with this type of injury, not
least of all because climbers don't often ask for their opinion.
Lesson Number 3: pre-emptive taping, like the currently popular pre-emptive
strike, will get you in a big pot of poo. Like George W Bush, it may take a
while for the odious aroma of error to reach your senses. If it is at all
effective, the physiological rules of engagement will predicate a long term
progressive weakening of the pullie system. You don't want that.
COMMON TAPING PROBLEMS
Contact dermatitis is probably the most common. This is a local skin
reaction in response to the tapes adhesives. Cheap tapes use cheap adhesives
and as such elicit a greater propensity to cause contact dermatitis. To
minimise this apply brown Leuko tape only.
If you are sensitive to tape then use a hypoallergenic underlay such as
Fixomul. When you finish climbing be sure to wash off all the sticky stuff
and apply a skin cream.
Tape will also slacken over a relatively short period of time. You will need
to re-tape every hour or so to maintain its effectiveness, irrespective of
whether the injury site is not painfull.
Lesson Number 4: physiological overload interspersed
with rest generates strength; overload without rest causes degeneration. Not
a difficult concept. All climbers will, however, be injured at some point.
It is the nature of climbers that they try, at times, too hard, or things
just don’t quite go according to plan. Your injury’s worst enemy is your
ego, which will tell you that you too can look good doing 1-5-9 on the
campus board just like Bla Bla. Ironically, the same passion that drives you
to go climbing in the first place will also hinder your recovery. If you get
an injury, be smart about it. Mmm...sounds like a road safety commercial.
You get the idea though.
Taping Help Protect Me From Finger Injuries - From TradGirl web site.
Home | Guide | Gallery | Tech Tips | Articles | Reviews | Dictionary | Forum | Links | About | Search
Chockstone Photography | Landscape Photography Australia | Australian Landscape Photography
Please read the full disclaimer before using any information contained on these pages.
All text, images and video on this site are copyright. Unauthorised use is strictly prohibited.
No claim is made about the suitability of the information on this site, for any purpose, either stated or implied. By reading the information on this site, you accept full responsibility for it's use, and any consequences of that use.