Ask Dr J – Issue 188 – Pushing Limits and Breaking Bones

Pushing Limits and Breaking Bones

About eight weeks ago I pulled my right hamstring at the attachment while heel hooking. I didn’t actually feel it until about five minutes after I’d come off the route, but once I did, holy cow! I was pretty darn sore for about a month—no climbing, no tying my own shoelaces, no stairs. I’m doing better now but it’s still quite achy at times—absolutely no overhangs or any toe-grabby stuff and no high steps. What can I do to make it heal faster?

mollyD | Rock and Ice Forum


Naturally, I have also had the ignominy of clutching my arse with one hand. I did, however, get much gratuitous satisfaction from asking people if they could feel the tear.

“No-no, it’s much higher than that … and a bit more in. A. Little. Bit. Higher!”

Your sore bum sounds less severe than mine, and that’s a good thing. A small though painful tear is likely. Any force, be it pulling with your toes or stretching the hamstring will come with a tearing sensation that will have you considering your future birthing options.

Get your boy (or girl!?) to rub your bum with warm oil every day. I guarantee it will be a bonding experience for both of you. I wish my Hottie had a torn hamstring! I’m sure a good aroma therapist may be of further assistance depending on the effect you’re after.

After a few more weeks, start doing some eccentric loading of your hamstrings to strengthen the injured tendon. You can do these with a Theraband, but a gym machine is much easier. Lift a moderate weight with two legs (lying on your tummy) but lower with only one leg.

Three sets of 10 reps preferably four to five days a week. Twice a day is better than once a day. Given your recent predilection for hamstring injuries, do this with both legs. A little pain is fine. Certainly you need to step up to the plate with a solid stretching and strengthening program. Pain while climbing is fine within reason, but anything that requires similar loading to the mechanism of injury should be graduated over the next couple of months.



A few weeks ago, I fell while using Powerisers [jumping stilts that allow the wearer to leap up to six feet] and fractured my scaphoid. I had just climbed my first 5.13 a week ago and was super psyched to send the Gnar. I am currently in an arm cast above my elbow for three weeks, then I am getting a shorter one. I have been going crazy not being able to climb for the past two weeks, and was wondering how to keep my strength up.

birdseal | Rock and Ice Forum


Good times. How can you know your limits unless you’re breaking bones? If you’re not hurting yourself, you’re in the grandstand.

I googled those thingies you mention—looks like sweet fun and an excellent catalyst for wrist and brain damage.

Rest up, bro. Some lounge time will do you good after pushing your physical limits with the 5.13. You are in the danger zone for injury right now. Come to think of it, it’s lucky you’re injured already or you might injure yourself. A week or two off would be perfect. Four to six weeks, though not ideal, will take very little effort to make up. I try to take a six-week block of rest every year. Good for the body, good for the head.

The badge of (dis)honor will come off in a month or so, but it will take two more before you can really give that wrist a yank. Be gentle initially. You’ll be trusting a massive assumption that the bone has knitted well. The scaphoid is notorious for avascular necrosis (bone death). Any pain that is not subsiding should be investigated rapido.

You could do some one-arm deadpoint practice, but it would really just be for party tricks and mental relief. You could do one-arm deadhanging … and ensure yourself a few more painful months recovering from elbow tendonosis.

Or you could romance your girlfriend. Cut my fingers off for saying it, but there is more to life than right, left and left again. Perhaps you should just bang your head against a wall for risking your climbing future on a pair of oversprung pogo sticks. Your call.



I was bouldering with my left middle and ring fingers deep in a pocket. I had to quickly get my fingers out and reach up for the next hold, and as I did, I hyper-extended them. Four months later I remain unable to climb. Should I get some scans?

Gaberabin | Rock and Ice Forum


You were living in Sydney. You were even climbing in the Blue Mountains. I work in the Blue Mountains. You didn’t call.

In all likelihood you do, or did, have a small avulsion fracture. When you hyper-extended the middle finger joint (aka the PIP joint), one of the connective tissues, be it ligament or the joint capsule, will have pulled off a fragment of bone. If an x-ray does not reveal a fracture, then you may have just disrupted the capsule on the front of the joint.

Given that it settled down and only briefly reaggravates after indoor climbing, a dose of radiation may be a little pointless. I think yours is more likely plain old stress rather than non-union, but if it persists certainly acquire a set of films.

Though prescribing rest is, for the most part, an excuse for poor diagnostics and even worse management, in this instance it’s neither. Anything that annoys this finger needs to halt until the pain settles. Be patient!



Hamstring Health

Practice the yoga posture Parsvottanasana to stretch and tone the hamstrings.

  • Stand with your feet about a meter apart.
  • Interlock your thumbs and raise your arms with an inhalation. Fully extend the spine.
  • Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and turn your left foot in 60 degrees. See that you have heel-toheel alignment.
  • Turn and face over your right leg. Square your hips with the right wall.
  • Exhale, fold forward and bring your hands to your shin, your ankle, or to the floor on either side of your foot.
  • Let the head drop and take five breaths.
  • If your hands are on the floor, walk the hands forward of your toes any amount and take five breaths.
  • Walk the hands behind the heel and take five breaths.
  • Return the hands to rest beside the foot, energize the back leg and come up with an inhalation. Switch sides and repeat two or three times.