Injury Prevention Quick Tip: Preventing a Hip Labral Tear

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Though lower-body injuries are prevalent among climbers, they’re rarely talked about—fingers and shoulders seem to get top billing. Still, type “hip labral tear” into a search engine and you will find forums filled with climbers lamenting about their pain. However, it is hard to find a formal article on the topic.

Did you ever wonder what that clicking in your hip is when you make a powerful move? Have you had groin pain after a long session of climbing and didn’t know how to calm it down? Do you know how to prevent a common hip injury that can sideline you for months?

This article will answer those questions and teach you technique-based advice and a corrective exercise to prevent hip labral tears.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. Lining the socket is a cartilaginous structure called the labrum. The labrum cushions the hip joint and acts like a seal to suction the hip bone into the socket and stabilize the joint. Because the labrum in the hip provides stability to the joint, climbers with a labral tear need to be mindful of moves that place their hip in end-range or unstable positions. These moves can be highsteps and big step-throughs, as well moves that require fully extended or rotated hips. By avoiding these positions as best as possible, climbers with a labral tear can climb longer without the onset of pain or instability.

If you have a labral injury, how can you climb hard yet still avoid these positions that stress the hip? For starters, try using intermediate footholds to minimize the likelihood of placing your hip toward the end of its range. Not only is this safer for your hip, but it also helps improve your footwork.

Injury Prevention Quick Tip: Preventing a Hip Labral Tear
Injury Prevention Quick Tip: Preventing a Hip Labral Tear
Injury Prevention Quick Tip: Preventing a Hip Labral Tear
Injury Prevention Quick Tip: Preventing a Hip Labral Tear

If you don’t have hip pain and are just trying to prevent any injury, there is little need to modify your movement unless you feel at risk for injury. Instead, try the corrective exercise below to prevent the injury from happening in the first place.

Recommended Exercise: Sideplank Clamshells

Perform this exercise to strengthen your gluteal muscles. Improved strength in your gluteal muscles can help stabilize your hip joint while climbing. Sideplank clamshells also strengthen the core muscles that stabilize your torso while climbing. As a bonus, it trains both legs at the same time, teaching one leg to stabilize while the other leg moves, which simulates how the legs are used while climbing. You can increase the challenge by placing a looped Theraband around your knees and performing the exercise with the added resistance of the band.

Preventing a Hip Labral Tear: Clamshells
Preventing a Hip Labral Tear: Clamshells

Instructions

  • Start on the ground in a side-lying position with your elbow directly under your shoulder and your knees bent to 90 degrees.
  • Lift your hip off the ground by propping your weight onto your forearm and the side of your knee.
  • As you lift your hip, also rotate your top leg so that the knee is traveling toward the ceiling.
  • Hold the side plank isometrically while you lower your top hip back to the starting position.
  • Repeat by rotating the top leg back upward while holding the plank.

Frequency

3 sets of 15 repetitions

What It Does

  • Trains the muscles of your core and hips to work in conjunction with your shoulder stabilizers.
  • Strengthens the hip and lateral trunk stabilizers, which are crucial for hip stability and climbing performance.
  • This exercise trains your body in a multi-planar fashion, to enhance your ability to move efficiently on the wall.

Tips

  • Imagine one straight line traveling through your entire body from the top of your shoulder all the way down to your ankles.
  • Use a mirror to provide visual feedback.

Dr. Jared Vagy, a doctor of physical therapy and an experienced climber, has devoted his career and studies to climbing-related injury prevention, orthopedics, and movement science. He authored the Amazon best-selling book Climb Injury-Free, and is a frequent contributor to Climbing Magazine. He is also a professor at the University of Southern California, an internationally recognized lecturer, and a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist.

For more injury-prevention tips like this one, take Dr. Vagy and Climbing Magazine’s 8-week AIM Adventure U course Strength Training for Injury Prevention. You’ll learn how to avoid common climbing injuries by strengthening your shoulders, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles, and abs. With the help of pro climber Sasha DiGiulian, Climbing Magazine and Dr. Vagy take you through world-class warmups, workouts, and techniques to strengthen your upper body, lower body, and core. Best of all, this 8-week course only costs $100, and you can take it over and over again.

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