Authors: Erika Nelson-Wong1,2,Johnathon Crawley2, Kevin Cowell3,Lena Parker2, Emily Higgins2,Stephanie Huang2,Claire Lorbiecki2,Shawn Wood2
1Department of Physical Therapy, Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
2School of Physical Therapy, Regis University, Denver, CO USA
3The Climb Clinic, Broomfield, CO USA
Erika Nelson-Wong, PT, DPT, PhD
18770 W. 60th Ave, Golden, CO 80403, USA
Erika Nelson-Wong, PT, DPT, PhD is currently a Professor of Physical Therapy at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. She was a Professor of Physical Therapy at Regis University during the time of this study. Her research interests focus on predictive factors for development of musculoskeletal disorders with an emphasis on biomechanics of movement.
Johnathon Crawley, PT, DPT, Lena Parker, PT, DPT, Emily Higgins, PT, DPT, Stephanie Huang, PT, DPT, Claire Lorbiecki, PT, DPT, and Shawn Wood, PT, DPT were student physical therapists in the School of Physical Therapy at Regis University during the time of this study and were awarded their DPT degrees in May 2022.
Kevin Cowell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FAAOMPT is the owner of The Climb Clinic and has a specialty physical therapy practice focused on injury rehabilitation and performance improvement of rock climbers of all skill levels.
Effect of Shoulder and Hand Position on Sport-Specific Grip Force in Rock Climbers
Purpose: Rock climbing has become popular as a recreational activity. Overuse injuries of fingers and hands are common due to uniquely high demands placed on these structures. Climbers adapt hand positions to match types of holds on rock climbing routes, with open-hand and half-crimp positions being most used. The primary purpose of this study was to explore differences in climbing-specific grip strength between 2 hand positions and 2 shoulder positions. Methods: Participants’ maximum isometric pull was tested on a 20mm edge climbing hold attached to a force transducer in each of 4 hand/shoulder position combinations bilaterally. 46 participants (20 female) across skill levels were included for analysis. Peak force was extracted and normalized to participants’ body weight. Mixed model ANOVAs were used to explore effects and interactions between shoulder position, hand position and skill level. Paired t-tests were used explore asymmetry between dominant and non-dominant hands. Results: Half-crimp position was stronger than open-hand position and shoulder position did not impact force production. Climbers of higher skill level had higher force production in both hand positions. Greater asymmetry was observed in climbers of higher skill in the half-crimp position only.
Conclusion: Findings support using a single shoulder position for testing finger strength versus multiple positions. Climbers of all levels should emphasize both open-hand and half-crimp training for performance and injury prevention. Applications in Sport: Shoulder position did not impact force in open-hand or half-crimp grip. Higher skill climbers produced greater force. Force was higher in half-crimp versus open-hand positions independent of skill. Climbers use open-hand and half-crimp positions and should train both for performance and injury prevention. Strength testing could include a single shoulder angle for efficiency.
Key Words: Rock Climbing, Performance, Injury Prevention, Training