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A Biomechanical Analysis of the H-Taping Method Used by Rock Climbers as Prophylactic or Stabilizing Fixation of Partial A2 Pulley Tears

  • Christina Salas
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author: Christina Salas, PhD, Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, MSC10 5600, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-000.
    Affiliations
    Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM

    Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, The University of New Mexico School of Engineering, Albuquerque, NM
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  • Natalia D. McIver
    Affiliations
    Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM

    Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, The University of New Mexico School of Engineering, Albuquerque, NM
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  • Alexander Telis
    Affiliations
    Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM
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  • Rachel Tufaro
    Affiliations
    Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM

    Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering, The University of New Mexico School of Engineering, Albuquerque, NM
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  • Fares Qeadan
    Affiliations
    Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health, Loyola University, Chicago, IL
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  • Jessica Gross
    Affiliations
    Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design, Clinical & Translational Science Center, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM
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  • Deana Mercer
    Affiliations
    Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation, The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM
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      Purpose

      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.

      Methods

      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.

      Results

      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.

      Conclusions

      We found that H-taping is not effective as prophylaxis against A2 pulley ruptures or as a stabilizing treatment method for partially ruptured pulleys.

      Clinical relevance

      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.

      Key words

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