Flexor pulley splints
A new treatment for an old problem
A thermoplastic pulley splint
After a day on surprisingly sharp holds at overhanging buttress Moughton Nab
Climbing subjects the fingers to extreme loads and it is no surprise that in a survey of 284 climbers over 2 years, Volker Schöffl (German othopaedic surgeon specialising in hand related climbing injuries) found that 37 (13%) of those climbers experienced pulley injuries in that time.
Most climbers know someone who has injured a finger flexor pulley or have done it themselves. Partial tears are debilitating. Full ruptures are devastating, often requiring surgery if more than one is ruptured. The good news is that the recovery is normally a full one. The downside is that it is a very slow recovery due to poor blood flow to the tissues and often takes months.
Taping is often used to support or assist the pulley during climbing, the theory being to minimise the loads the pulley has to manage. Sadly this is not very effective and can lead to false confidence. The stress reduction is statistically significant, but small and the tape needs frequent re-application.
The theory is a sound and logical one, but to get the tape tight enough to be truly effective the circulation to the finger is cut off. Not ideal for a tissue we want to heal.
Micha Schneeberger B.S. and Dr. Andreas Schweizer M.D. recently published “Pulley Ruptures in Rock Climbers: Outcome of Conservative Treatment With the Pulley-Protection Splint-A Series of 47 Cases.” This showed the efficacy of using thermoplastic rings. They follow the same principles of taping, but provide much more support. It is possible to wear them for hours at a time, even when climbing. They allow for adequate blood flow to the finger whilst providing effective support.
They can be used to support full ruptures as well as partial tears. One splint will last you the entire rehab time. The study showed they significantly improved recovery time and the success of the rupture repair. This is due to the splint holding the tendon close to the bone for extended periods, allowing the pulley to heal around it.
I've used lockdown to obtain the equipment, relevant training and practice time to make these and am now pleased to offer the service.
They are custom made to your finger and take about an hour for an assessment of the finger and to fashion the splint and test it out.
They can be worn 23 hours a day, during work, climbing and other activities. Certain restrictions obviously apply and will be discussed on enquiry to ascertain that they are suitable for your situation.