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Rehab and recovery from a ruptured flexor tendon

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  • Rehab and recovery from a ruptured flexor tendon

    Hello Everyone,

    I am new to this forum but after exhausting my other resources and discovering this I thought I would ask the hand strength authorities. Let me first give you some background on myself and the injury.

    I am a 25 year old very athletic guy, I wrestled for years and am a very avid outdoors man. I love to hike (hundreds-thousands of miles at a time), mt. bike, hunt, ski/snowboard and (most importantly to this conversation) rock climb. The last 3-4 years of my life have been pretty focused on rock climbing. Last year while pulling on some small holds I completely snapped my flexor digitorum superficialis tendon in the middle finger of my left hand. The "snap" resulted in a full rupture and it retracted into the palm of my hand. Due to insurance issues and the remote area in which I live I was unable to see a doctor for some time. I was told by a specialist that there is really nothing that can be done without an incredibly invasive tendon graft surgery and up to 12 months of rehab. Even then I may only regain 60-75 percent use. I currently have nearly full range of motion with the exception that I know longer have direct control of my third knuckle, I am unable to form the crimp position (when you snap your fingers you make the same movement). This has been detrimental to my climbing, but I am learning to deal with it and make due.

    My question to anyone who will answer is what can I do to strengthen the other fingers to compensate and the one remaining tendon I have in that finger? Should I consider surgery to remove the swollen tendon stubs? Does anyone have a strengthening routine that might help me?

    I am, and always will be, a climber and I want to return to the level I was at or surpass it. I know I can do it but I need a little help. Anything is appreciated. Thanks

    -Andrew Schurr

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    • #3
      Number 1 - never get medical advice over the internet forums . Deciding to get it repaired or not (or stubs removed or not) should be a decision reached jointly with your doctor/surgeon. Taking a year off sounds bad but taking forever off climbing sounds much worse.

      I have been climbing almost 30 years now and thankfully have never "completely" torn anything. But I have suffered partial tears in finger and palm tendons in both hands and tore the outside head of both biceps climbing. It took a couple years to really overcome them totally. What helped was obviously time but learning to use an open hand grip in place of the crimp in all but the most necessary positions was the answer for me. My open hand strength was so much weaker than the crimp in the beginning I didn't believe it would ever be possible to climb the same difficulty of routes but with time I did. I did a lot of open hand training - and made a series of bigger pipes to use as a hang board, chin, and pull up stations that eventually I could swing around on. But of all the things I ever did (gym wise) that helped my climbing grip - I think fingers curls on an Olympic bar helped the most (besides climbing of course). It sounds like you have one remaining tendon in that finger - you might consider taping it to reduce risk of tearing that one as well as offering some pulley support to the finger portion of the tendon complex.