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TheNumberNine

Keeping your knees safe when mountaineering

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Hey Guys

 

Something that I was thinking about when hanging with a couple of my buddies (crossfit addicts) tonight was injury prevention. I mentioned to them that whenever I'm descending a mountain I always manage to slightly hyperextend a knee once or twice... Especially when you plunge step more than you had originally anticipated due to a sloppy snow pack on the way down.

 

What do you guys think of rocking some knee sleeves when mountaineering? Might get a little uncomfortable at times but I wonder if having knee support on the descent would increase my longevity as a mountaineer in the future seeing as I'm 23 right now.

 

Also, what are some things that you think all mountaineers should be conscious of? i.e repetitive strain, overuse injury, ergonomics, etc. (Not stuff like tripping and falling off the mountain or getting caught in an avalanche)

Edited by TheNumberNine

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I think staying physical fit is the best way to prevent injury. Most of my minor injures are do to me being tired and having bad form. I also always use trekking poles. On the decent they take a lot of work off my knees and allow me to stay much more stable.

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As a 43 YO who has been running (up to ultramarathon distance), backpacking and climbing since I was 15 I think there are aa few things to consider.

 

1) Some people have bad knees. Period. These people should not run to stay in shape, they should probably bike. Knee braces for these people is a probably not a bad idea. An ounce of prevention...

 

 

2) The best stategry to maintain climbing and fitness injury prevention is a holistic approach to fitness.

 

a)Get your three major cardio workouts in (LSD, intervals, and tempo). My gig is trail running which is insanely good for alpine climbing. If running is not your thing (see above) biking is the next best thing, stair masters, rowing machines can also be useful.

 

b)Resistance workouts with a lot of stability and core work and don't neglect the antagonistic muscles. Focus on bodyweight exercises: pullups, push ups (hand elevated for full range of motion, feet elevated for increased difficulty), dips, hanging leg/knee lifts, planks, ball crunches. Add a few dumbell exercises to round out the program.

 

The Crossfit folks will have a lot to say about this.

 

c)Flexibility. Yoga, dedicated stretching routines, whatever.

 

Specifically for stengthing knees biking is great. I raced bikes as a youth as well as ran (and swam) competitively. All the biking I did stengthened the muscles and connective tissues supporting the knees.

 

I have trail ran up to 1 million feet of elevation gain and loss per year on some pretty gnarly trails with NO knee injuries in 27 years of running.

 

I'm sure there are going to be a lot of dissenting opinions on this. I think a lot of it comes down to experimenting with different programs and finding what works for you.

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Excellent post DPS.

 

 

don't neglect the antagonistic muscles.

 

Bingo. And avoid injury while doing it. Trust me on this: "TODAY IT'S YOUR KNEES TOMORROW IT'S SOMETHING ELSE". Really. In his book, Mike Layton gives some great workout things to consider, but he specifically advises avoiding the classic sitting leg extension on the universal machine, and overhead press which we all do. Avoiding injuries should be our #1 goal (I'm injured and not climbing today due to a banana peel slip on snow 14 mo ago, I didn't fully recover and then I reinjured it in Yosemite @ a week ago being stupid doing things I knew would reinjure it - ie aid climbing)

 

this one:

leg_extension_model%5B1%5D.jpg

I give what he says great credence, but it's easy, fast and measurable: so what I do is not stress (go all out) when on that machine.

 

Use of a trainer who climbs or a good book should be incorporated as part of any training you do. John Frieh and folks like that are walking examples on how the use of crossfit and exercise should be to strengthen so as to avoid injuries while climbing. As a practicing armchair internet hack with no credentials other than being exactly where you are today (only more like at age 30) I'd recommend seeing a doctor. It's possible that a simple surgery may fix it. If that's out of the question: I'd suggest you cease the activity which causes the hypertension immediately as it will only get worse, strengthen the joint via a long and carefully examined well structured strength training program, and gradually re try it.

 

Maybe some real experts will weigh in.

 

 

Dr Laytons book:

http://www.amazon.com/Climbing-Stronger-Faster-Healthier-Beyond/product-reviews/1439231982/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_btm?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

 

Damn, good luck.

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one thing I've learned is most of the damage I do to my legs is when I'm descending in a hurry, judging by pain the next day so I try to not hurry on the descent as much as possible. Sometimes you need to get down fast but if you have a little extra time its a lot easier on you if you moderate the pace a bit.

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it might be solved by "tightening" certain joints, muscles and ligaments and loosening certain joints, muscles and ligaments. I am not experienced enough to diagnose but find a good sports therapist of some kind to look at the entire structure of your leg and lower trunk to find imbalances. for example, tight hip flexors which are very common in americans can cause a whole host of issues not near the hip. if and when you do find out this info, let us know.

 

have you had a injury to the knee that was severe but never let a doctor look at it? I had a torn ACL for a year before finally seeing a doctor about it when I thought I had cartilage damage. big surprise when he said my acl was gone. Your knee hyperextenting sounds like it is straining the acl.

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At the moment my knees are fine.. Just ran 5 miles other day and climbed a 1000 feet vert yesterday on my road bike.

 

I'm talking about those moments where you plunge step and all of a sudden the snow beneath your foot decides to give way another 6 or 8 inches and your knee locks out and all of your weight goes onto it. It's a split second "OH SHIT" moment and it feels like you almost or very minorly hyperextended it.

 

Kind of one of those things that's hard to avoid sometimes.

 

I second the trekking poles for descent from base camp but sometimes even walking down from the summit can feel like it's doing a number.

 

I was thinking of rocking some knee sleeves like volleyball players or olympic lifters wear (very low profile and add a little bit of support) for when I'm slogging downhill for hours with a full pack on.

 

Also, I see so many people not using their load lifting straps (the ones that come up off your shoulder straps to the top of your pack) properly and they're craning their head against a 60 lb load for hours. Talk about a way to strain and injure your neck/shoulders. I once was guilty of this. Lead with your chest, keep your ears above your shoulders.

 

Climbing is a demanding sport and I feel like it's prudent to be conscious of these kinds of things.

 

I'm a fan of base camp yoga, or "snow-ga" post climb and active stretching before the climb. A little goes a long way...

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You could ski down, beats a slushy posthole any day...though it might trade one specific knee problem for another :)

EDIT: Doubt that helps, but I do know what you're talking about...its sketched me out a few times but probably nothing to worry about- just take each step deliberately!

Edited by mhux

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I felt like my knees started going bad when I was in my early to mid twenties. I also remember that exact feeling you are talking about when you are post holing and you feel like you almost hyper extend your knee. I did that several times.

 

My knees got worse after a couple of seasons of very frequent long days in the alpine with big packs. I started to worry that I would not be able to continue alpine climbing.

 

Then I started biking to work and around town, on an almost daily basis. Not hard core mountain biking or road biking, just daily commuting. It wasn't that I was trying to fix my knees, I was just cheap and wanted to save gas money. It seemed to "fix" my knees as they just eventually stopped hurting all together.

 

I'm now 38 and have absolutely no problems with my knees. No long term damage, and no pain when descending. It's not scientific, but I really believe that daily bike riding did something to strengthen my knees in a way for them to stop hurting when hiking/climbing even with a big pack.

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Hey Guys

 

I mentioned to them that whenever I'm descending a mountain I always manage to slightly hyperextend a knee once or twice... Especially when you plunge step more than you had originally anticipated due to a sloppy snow pack on the way down.

 

Lots of other good advice here. I had my ACL reconstructed 17 years ago, and I'm always conscious of hyper-extending it. On descents/plunge stepping I always keep my knees bent a little, and lean back slightly; this keeps me from hyper-extending the knee should I post hole.

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I'm sure there is a video on Youtube explaining how to wrap or tape your knees to help avoid hyperextending them. I found one on how to tape my ankle to keep it from rolling and it works really well.

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craning their head against a 60 lb load for hours.

What are these people climbing that they need 60 pound packs for? On Denali I never carried much more than 50.

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A well designed training program should include exercises at appropriate loads/reps to address and slowly alleviate issues/injury resulting from the chosen task... in your case climbing.

 

Basically you shouldnt have to wear knee sleeves. If you really have knee issues devote some of your program to correcting it. If you dont then dont wear them.

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A well designed training program should include exercises at appropriate loads/reps to address and slowly alleviate issues/injury resulting from the chosen task... in your case climbing.

 

Basically you shouldnt have to wear knee sleeves. If you really have knee issues devote some of your program to correcting it. If you dont then dont wear them.

 

This is really good advice. I funked up my knee a few winters ago skiing -- typical ACL-tear symptoms, but none of the images showed an actual ACL tear. The Dr.'s all figured it was just "partially" torn (i.e. stretched), which apparently is hard to see in an image. They recommended I have my knee scoped to take a look "in person."

 

Instead I talked to a PT and hit the gym and did some leg/hip/ankle exercises and my knee is definitely more secure, and my long-time ITB issues seem to be resolving as well.

 

So, +1 to conditioning as a better prophylactic to injury than braces.

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There's not a whole lot you can do to prevent a knee hyperextending, especially when plunge stepping. It's the one of the weakest joints that happen to sit below the strongest muscles in your body. I think a knee sleeve would just give you a false sense of security and lull you into a bit of carelessness on the descent.

 

Anecdotally I would say plunge stepping is one of the more dangerous parts of mountaineering around here. I've seen and heard of lots of twisted ankles, twisted knees, dislocated shoulders, sprained wrists and a busted femur - all from just the scenario you described about plunge stepping. Skiing is more fun anyways!

 

 

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I'm no trainer, so take this with a grain of salt. Hyperextending the knees during plunge stepping sounds like the result of poor form due to fatigue. Do you incorporate much concentric phase exercises into your training regime? Properly incorporated squat cleans (or there many variations), reverse lunges, etc. may find a good home in your routine.

 

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