/ Wielding an axe with a pinkie injury....

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peebles boy - on 23 Nov 2013
After a few exploratory days out, it seems my winter plans could suffer this year due to injury....

4 months ago I injured my pinkie, backwards hyper-extension of the knuckle joint. Over biking in France for the summer, things were getting a lot better due to the pretty intense use it was getting - strength and movement were both coming back from all the down-hilling, was doing a fair bit of climbing too. It was still really sensitive though, the slightest knock in injury direction made for sweary words....
Unfortunately, about 2 months ago I did exactly the same thing to it again (LOTS of sweary words and shocked looking old woman walking past). This time, there seems less pain associated with it in general, but it's weak as hell and won't make a good grip/fist shape. Last few days out have shown this is a problem!! (Try wielding your axe gripping only with your "first" three fingers and you'll see how much you actually rely on your pinky finger to achieve a good swing on it).
Also, the number of times I've bashed it off rock/snow/ice etc when out is putting it under more stress.

What can I do? Doc says it's likely soft tissue injury that will take a while to heal and has prescribed Ibuprofen Gel for when it's playing up. I'm going to put some racket tape round the bottom of axe to improve grip ability (thinking a fatter shaft will enable a better ability to grip if I can't get my finger to curl round the axe as normally would) but is there anything to do about protecting it? Some kind of ice axe gauntlet cover for your hand? Closest thing I have found so far would be retro fitting Grivel "The Horn" to one of my old Stubai Hornet axes, but even this is only a limited coverage of the area.
Also thinking some kind of plastic/metal disc attached to the bottom of the axe grip would give all round base of hand assistance, as the ability to pull on the axe is quite limited too at the moment - the pressure is transferred straight to the damaged area when pulling on a normal leashless based grip rest.

Any thoughts from folks who've been in a similar position/similar injury or have seen/used any kind of manufactured or home-bodged hand protectors? Any useful healing advice appreciated too, currently using it as much as I can with additional flexing and manipulation, as well as "squash ball therapy". Which is not going well, need a softer squash ball I think!!

andy_e on 25 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

Although it's not what you want to hear, my advice would honestly be to rest it, and let it heal properly. Frustrating now, but a better idea in the long run to prevent permanent injury.

But I doubt that is an option, so take it easy, and make sure you keep your hands warm as possible. Consider some padded winter cycling gloves, or decent ice climbing gloves to give some protection. Make some wrist warmers from some support bandage, and maybe take some hand warmers and a pair of large mitts to go on top of everything at belays. If your hands are kept warm it will greatly improve the finger!

The grivel horn, or similar rest might be a good idea, but it might not also. It seems like this will concentrate most of your weight onto the little finger. Perhaps go back to old-fashioned leashes for this season?
peebles boy - on 25 Nov 2013
In reply to talon_guy:

Yep, keeping it warm has been a priority, lots of gloves/changes if wet.
Like your thinking about going back to a leash - as you say, it would definitely take the strain off the finger. Should be fun re-learning how to climb with a leash as well... Or not....!

baldie - on 25 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

I wonder if Grivel trigger rests would help. I have them on old Alien axes and all the weight comes onto your index finger and is quite good. I have handled axes now and don't find much benefit most of the time. When you swing the axe with the trigger you tend to rotate it round your index finger and works quite well
oggi on 25 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy: Not much help to you but I dislocated mine badly half way up an alpine N Face! I taped my hand to my axe and had to carry on, I now have a deformed pinkie so I would not recommend my treatment.

Jim Fraser - on 27 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

If you want to got winter climbing with that injury then you will have to tape to the third finger and use dachsteins and leashes.

Cheer up, the 80s weren't that bad really.
Mike Lates - on 28 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

I snapped a tendon in my pinky last November. A finger splint for 6 weeks was prescribed. Bad move, should have got to a surgeon who "could have done something with it in the first 2 weeks". Now stuck with no flex in last joint
Anyway, I spent all season climbing with it strapped to the 4th. I thought my newly aquired Nomics would be obsolete but the old faithful Dachs were perfect still. The secret is to do everything you can in the mitts but not worry about whipping your hand out to mess with gear. Unlike gloves your hand will slip straight back into a still warm mitt. Adding wrist loops to them is easy.
Evidence- (The grimace was from the biting of the splint edge which was ditched soon afterwards)
Strap it up & get out there, good luck.
nniff - on 29 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

I did a tendon in my pinky - as you say, disproportionately awkward and painful. Best thing I found was one of those red Metolius foam balls with the rubber band/web thing. Fairly benign but, in contrast to most exercisers, it lets you do extension as well as contraction.
Carolyn - on 29 Nov 2013
In reply to Jim Fraser:

LOL, I was also going to suggest taping, and thought the earlier suggestion of leashes was probably good in the circumstances.

I'm sure we can find someone with a nice pair of 80s axes to donate for the full effect. In fact, I can probably offer a hammer......
Nick Barnard - on 29 Nov 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

Amputate, it'll only slow you down in the long run
nniff - on 29 Nov 2013
In reply to Nick Barnard:

You do that, and you'll never hold a handful of peanuts again! This a friend of mine discovered after having his pinky amputated to the main joint. This was terminally irritating as the remaining stump prevented him putting his hand in his pocket. He therefore had the remainder removed, and found he could no longer hold peanuts. C'est la vie!
peebles boy - on 29 Nov 2013

Cheers folks, some good, bad and ugly stories in there! Especially painful to hear yours Mike, nothing worse than finding out too late that something could have been done. Hopefully you can still grasp peanuts and get your hand in your pocket though!

It seems a winter of tape, mitts and leashes awaits. Off to ebay to see if I can find a pair of Terrors and a bright orange Goretex cag to complete the look!

rossn - on 05 Dec 2013
In reply to peebles boy: Funnily enough I injured my right hand in July. I tore a chunk out of my wrist cutting the artery, nerve and tendons which has left my pinky and ring finger numb and very weak. The exercises I was given include a thing called contrast bathing where you alternately squash a sponge with your hand whilst immersed in iced and then hot water(hot as you can stand). I do this about 4 times a day along with various techniques using stuff called theraputty. I'm currently up to about 60% grip strength with the hand. Biggest problem though is the cold and I very quickly loose effective circulation to the pinky. Although my injury was different to yours I would recommend you try the bathing. It seems to promote the healing process. Hope this helps.


Exile - on 05 Dec 2013
In reply to peebles boy:

Friend of mine with a finger injury is going back to leashes for the season - as is suggested, worth a shot.

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