#MPRRaccoon and Climbing Injuries

#MPRRaccoon and Climbing Injuries

Created on: Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Author: Lauren Topor (SAOS Summer Intern)

With all of the attention on a climbing raccoon Tuesday, June 12, we wanted to bring attention to potential orthopedic perils of rock climbing. One of our summer interns, Lauren Topor (Bethel University '19), reviewed injuries reported in the literature and shared the details below. 

#MPRRaccoon charmed the world Tuesday as it scaled the UBS tower in downtown St. Paul, climbing 25 stories to finally reach the roof around 2:30 AM early Wednesday morning. Thankfully, this new Internet sensation faired the climb safely.  But with an estimated 9 million people taking part in rock climbing annually, injury while participating in this activity is something that cannot be overlooked.  

Injuries from climbing vary widely and are classified as either traumatic (ex. falls) or overuse (due to continued overloading of muscles and joints).  Because of the nature of the sport, overuse injuries cause the majority of pain in climbers.  Let’s review some of the most prevalent climbing injuries.
SHOULDER: Subluxation, or partial dislocation, is often common in this joint. This occurs when the ball extends forward and out of the socket. Subluxations cause extreme pain in the posterior shoulder and often require visits to physical therapy to resolve.  The rotator cuff is also prone to injury.  This group of muscles and tendons is responsible for stabilizing the ball-and-socket joint and is often torn when climbers place extreme stress on the joint by constantly reaching overhead. Rotator cuff tears are characterized by pain on the top of the shoulder and upper arm, especially when trying to lift the arm.
FINGERS: Finger pulleys are ligaments in the finger that are highly involved in flexion.  When grabbing onto small rocks with only the tips of the fingers, these ligaments are under extreme stress to hold the climber’s weight, making them very vulnerable to tears.  Trigger-finger syndrome is also common in climbers.  This causes the fingers to lock up or pop due to a cyst that forms under finger tendons.  Although relatively pain-free, this injury significantly reduces grip strength.
KNEE: The meniscus, a supportive structure found between the thigh and shin bones, is prone to lots of wear-and-tear.  In climbing, this cartilage is often broken down due to stress-inducing footwork techniques (like the dropknee), forming tears.
Luckily, the spider-like climber that captivated the Internet doesn’t have to worry about many of these injuries due in part to its strong claws, ability to rotate its feet, and of course, its non-human anatomy.  Now, the #MPRRaccoon is safely back in the wild, likely enjoying a climbing terrain more fit to its liking.
Hopefully you haven’t scaled a 25-story building without equipment (like our furry friend), but if you are in need of care for any of the above climbing injuries (or others), give us a call at 952-946-9777 to schedule a visit at one of our twelve clinics.
Maitland M. Injuries Associated with Rock Climbing. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 1992, Volume 16.

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