How to Avoid Knee Problems

How to Avoid Knee Problems
Among the many risks of bouldering--or ropeless rock climbing--causing long-term damage to the knees may seem the least of one's concerns. But jumping or falling from boulders, day in and day out, adds some serious strain to the knees. Incorporate these steps into your bouldering routine if you want to walk when you're 90.

Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

Down-Climb

Things You’ll Need:
  • Crash pad
  • Crash pad
Step 1
While it can be tempting to celebrate a top-out with a liberating jump to the ground, always down-climb, if possible, to avoid unnecessary impact to the knees. This practice will not only save your knees but increase your endurance.
Step 2
If your arms feel too pumped to climb, take a rest. Hang onto the top edge of the wall with your arms extended and relaxed, and shake each alternately to get the blood moving.
Step 3
If you are still tired, to reduce the risk of falling, find the easiest route available to down-climb.

Climbing and Falling

Step 1
Be aware of hazards on the route itself. It is easy to forget about the legs when gunning for a hold, which means you may end up smashing your knee into hard rock or a hold that juts out awkwardly on the gym's climbing wall. This is neither a gratifying nor glamorous injury, so place your legs wisely.
Step 2
If you must fall, do so with good form. Learning to fall well is just as important as learning to climb well, because falling is a part of bouldering. So take it seriously.
Step 3
Instead of landing firmly on your feet with your legs locked, loosen up and let your knees bend with the impact, as though you were landing a jump on a snowboard.
Step 4
If you feel that the force is too great to allow you to stay on your feet, let yourself keep falling, tucking your knees in and rolling onto your back. The point is to diffuse the ground's impact so it does not shoot straight through your legs and back, straining your knees, tailbone or spinal chord.

Crash Pad

Step 1
Always boulder with a crash pad, whether outdoors or inside. Gyms have spongey floors, but you need the extra cushioning of a pad. Even a small drop, if it lands you on your feet, can put a lot of strain on the knees, especially if endured over a long period of time.
Step 2
To ensure you have a pad beneath you at all times, you'll need a spotter to adjust the pad as you move through the route, which may meander to the left or right of the pad below. A spotter should remain attentive for the entire climb--even if the route is short or low to the ground--anticipating where and how the body will land and adjusting the pad accordingly.
Step 3
The pad should generally be directly below the climber's hips. If the climber falls from a great height, the spotter can lessen the impact to the climber's knees and other parts of the body by firmly grabbing the climber's hips and taking some impact in the arms to soften the land.

Strengthen Leg Muscles

Step 1
Muscles help to stabilize joints. Strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings to minimize strain and the risk of injury.
Step 2
Ride to the gym. Bicycling strengthens leg muscles without any impact to the knees.
Step 3
Do jumping squats. This exercise works the same muscles, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings, that are used in landing a fall.

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