Rock climbing can lead to upper-extremity injuries, such as A2 pulley ruptures, leading to the bowstringing of the flexor tendons. Climbing finger positions are specific and can put undue stress on the pulley systems. This causes severe hand dysfunction and is a difficult problem to treat, and prevention is important. Using a cadaveric, experimental model, we evaluated the effectiveness of the H-taping method, commonly used by rock climbers, to prevent and treat A2 pulley tears.
Using fourteen matched pairs of fresh-frozen cadaveric hands with forearms, four experiments were conducted with 56 paired comparisons evaluating the failure force, fingertip force, and mode of failure (112 total tests). Comparisons were as follows: index fingers- intact versus 50% distal A2 pulley tears without H-taping (control); ring fingers- intact versus H-taping as a prophylactic for A2 pulley tears; little fingers- 50% distal A2 pulley tears with H-tape versus without tape; and middle fingers- H-taping as a prophylactic versus H-taping as a stabilizing treatment of torn pulleys.
The mean index finger failure force was significantly higher in intact vs torn A2 pulleys (control). Failure force for intact H-taped fingers was significantly higher than torn H-taped fingers, but no other finger comparisons for failure force were significant. There were no significant findings in comparison of mean fingertip force values in any of the experiments.
We found that H-taping is not effective as prophylaxis against A2 pulley ruptures or as a stabilizing treatment method for partially ruptured pulleys.
While H-taping has not been recommended as prophylaxis for preventing A2 pulley ruptures, the climbing community has embraced this technique as a preventative measure. The present study provides biomechanical evidence against H-taping for this purpose. Furthermore, it does not appear to aid in increasing fingertip force after injury.
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Published online: July 20, 2022
Accepted: May 11, 2022
Received: April 10, 2021
Publication stageIn Press Corrected Proof
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