24 April 2007
One of the main worries climbers have after getting an injury is whether to take a complete layoff from climbing activity and how long that layoff should be. Some reading about rehab in sport will tell you that extended layoffs are very bad news not only for losing form but also recovering from the injury. Here is quote from a review of strength training in sports rehab which really rams home the point:
"it is now clear that during the remodeling phase, occurring theoretically from the 21st day after injury and even lasting 300 to 500 days, the collagen tissue remodeling can only take place efficiently when put under stress (or load)."
The initial layoff (up to three weeks) allows the acute phase of the injury to pass (that is inflammation causing swelling, tenderness and lots of nasty chemicals in the wound). Beyond that, it takes training for the injury to respond with improvements in exactly the same way as normal training, except of course that it is starting from a very low load capability. What has to be remembered is that sporting function is not normal function. If you layoff for a long period, an injury will recover to the point it can handle what is being asked of it (i.e. lifting kettles, tapping keyboards in some people's case!). You would'nt stop climbing for six months and then jump back on your hardest grade would you? So if you have an injury where the capability of the damaged tissue drops to a very low level, you shouldn't let it languish at that level and then expect it to suddenly perform a massive jump in standard by starting normal climbing again.
The bottom line is, rehab from injury is (beyond the initial phase) analogous to normal training, with progressive overload to stimulate the tissue to respond. All the aspects of normal training also apply; monitoring of progress, regular and stuctured exercises, careful lifestyle support (which in this case will include rehab treatments like Lewis reaction icing, stretching and maybe friction massage).