Do climberís deal with severe injury/ illness better?


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Radical Rebirth

Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - May 20, 2019 - 12:02pm PT

It occurred to me just now that climbers may cope with severe or acute injury better than the general population. Iím laying here and have visions of the many climbers on ST flashing injuries and big smiles.

This would be an interesting study. . Pain and suffering is so difficult to study because of its subjective nature, but good interviews and multiple sessions would start to show some interesting differences. Get a good size control and population group of about 100 each and it would be a great project.

My hypothesis is that climbers see injury as another adventure. Itís just how we look at the world and how our minds/ nervous systems react to stress. Just another mountain to conquer for us; we take up this pain and perhaps a bone sticking out of our bodies as a curious new adventure. Iíve never heard a climber whine about these things - if anything they laugh and get after it !!!

Of course there are many deep psychological issues that could be examined tangentially and laterally as well. If ST has taught most of us anything over the last 18 years itís that we are different bunch. Many of the bigger battles on here can be distilled to: climbers arguing over who is most competent to lead the final pitch - cause the rest of you all are f*#king this sh#t up.
Ego and the Dunning - Kruger effect are ever present of course. But why not think that you are the best person to fix this issue, when youíve made A5 look easy all over the world or just lead Double Cross for the first time. Climbers are rare - and all other things aside are absolute bad asses. This is the original 1 percent group.

I think a study such as this could have real applications for psychological work. How a person sees life and a challenge is something that affects our lives everyday. You can be 100 percent negative or positive. Iíve really had to learn this on my new job where itís so incredibly difficult and yet I can find 100s of things a day to get pissed about ( lazy, useless, overwhelmed, pain, personal issues, hunger, people being as#@&%es). With mindfulness training itís amazing how quickly we move past our psychological quirks. As much as 40 percent of my ER patientís issues can be traced back to anxiety, too much thinking, or the wrong kind of thinking. Itís a major Heath care issue.
There would be applications for kids with cancer and patients with anxiety as well as every disease and age group in the books.

I may take this up at the doctorate level in the next few years. So keep me in mind if you want to be part of the study. The hardest part will be getting true honest data and not just trying to prove the hypothesis. Controls for bias in this case - so hard to do. So Iíll need a wide range of climbers, injuries, illness and types of people. And then distill various known and unknown mindfulness coping mechanisms from interviews.


Trad climber
Valles Marineris
May 20, 2019 - 12:17pm PT
I suppose injury severity will have a significant impact on attitude of the individual. Light at the end of the tunnel, then I'd say 'yes' climbers will generally handle the injury and subsequent recovery in a more positive way and may have better outcomes than the larger population becasue of attitude and physicality. However, and this is a single data point, one person I know who became permanently paralyzed after a non-climbing accident spiraled into alcohol/drug addiction and is no longer with us. They distinctly went down hill hard and fast once it became readily apparent that full recovery was not in the cards.

It will be an interesting study, if you follow through.

A long way from where I started
May 20, 2019 - 12:44pm PT
Good to have you back, Riley -- even if it's only for another ten days.

Your question is one that I've thought about a lot, driven mostly by my own serious injury and subsequent rehab and recovery twenty years ago.

I believe climbers (well, serious climbers) do deal with it better than most of the general population, but I also think limiting the question to "climbers" is too narrow an approach.

Climbers are not the only group with a desire/need for the kind of experience that enables them to cope well with injury (and maybe illness, too). So maybe broaden your study (should you ever pursue it) to include people who have chosen dangerous and sometimes painful work or recreation, and stayed with it for more than a couple of years.
John M

May 20, 2019 - 01:03pm PT
One of the magical powers I wouldn't mind having is " help people walk a mile in another persons shoes". So many people think they know what someone else is going through. I find that they rarely do.

For instance.. an injury is much different from a chronic illness, yet people conflate the two.

I do agree with some of your hypothesis though. People who are accustomed to and like to challenge themselves are better equipped to deal with trauma.

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
May 20, 2019 - 01:12pm PT
In short, yes. Most of us are quite used to suffering, both physical and mental. Maybe climbers have a higher pain threshold than the general populace in the first world. Maybe that why we have pursued outdoor activities.

Same could be said for other injury/life threatening activities like rodeo, gymnastics, motocross, surfing, extreme skiing, etc.

People in third world situations deal with a hell of a lot more than than is in my wheelhouse.
Radical Rebirth

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2019 - 01:27pm PT
Good points already, guys.

As with everything it gets complicated fast. Yeah, no idea if Iím doing this but it feels like a good idea, better than most of mine - and an interesting five year type project. Maybe a childrenís book at the end. Maybe I should consider my attention span - and just do the childrenís book. The world has enough worthless studies.

The climber data on long term and short term injuries would be interesting- climbers may go down even faster with debilitating, long term, co-morbidities which impact lifestyle. But those findings would be so high across all populations. I wonder.
I see a lot of climbers persevering with this type of thing too. And in the general population everyday I see people not doing well as they come into the ER. Of course even that is a selected ER population not representative of the whole.

Mind boggling to me how tuff science is and even now when we pool 1000s of studies with meta-analysis we often donít know much more than we did originally. There are just too many variables to consider, be aware of, include, and control in chaos.

ST is amazing - just like that-, something I thought I understood torn apart.
Yeah , Rodeo guys -.we got nothing on them.
And the third world, is where Iíve learned most of whatís important

May 20, 2019 - 01:52pm PT
I don't know about everybody else. . . but I can tell you empirically that climbing, backpacking, mountaineering, racing moto-cross, marathon ski racing, long distance sea kayaking, doing inner city rescue in L.A., ski patrolling and race coaching prepared me for the 8 hour self rescue I had to pull off when I broke my back in that freak accident in the closet on Mt. Shasta.

Pretty much everything I ever did, in my entire life, added up to my survival.

And. . . as for recovery, after emergency back surgery, all I wanted to do was be released from the clutches of the orthopod so I could teach myself where my feet were - to hell with physio - I had serious proprioception deficits and all I needed to do was ski on groomed skating lane, no poles - just lap after lap after lap. Trauma had robbed me of finding the sweet spot. It took 30 solid days - 4 - 6 hours a day to find it again.

That type of tenacity comes hand in hand with climbing and all the other stuff I listed, above.



May 20, 2019 - 02:54pm PT
Well, it's a self-aggrandizing and somewhat narcissistic viewpoint; we've been lacking in that department.

Welcome back!
Radical Rebirth

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2019 - 03:12pm PT
Paralysis is my new tick on lifeís bucket list, as well Kat.

Still realizing today how weak my foot is but also other parts of my left leg and my balance. I tripped on my toes when walking without my foot support yesterday and almost went down.

Thinking about Mal, the last few days, and how he manages to still climb with a prosthetic. This is an incredible thing, to work a foot with no neurological feed back. But that was predictive for Mal, once we hear Doniniís story of his mental attitude during and after the accident.

My dorsiflexion strength is a 2.5 out of 5. But it feels like I have maybe lost 90 percent of the strength in my foot. But when looking at my own week I didnít write my story from a point of pitty or sorrow. I wrote it from the nutjob perspective of adventure and excitement. Even now, I have no sadness, more fascination with this process.

When I compare the attitude of Ekat to the attitude of some of the 200 patients I see in the ER everyday itís really dramatic. Few people are able to make the changes or be as proactive as EKat or Mal.

My leg now - there is a plate that is attached and comes across the bottom of foot to fold it up or drag my toes. A significant impediment to climbing. 🤣🤣🤘🏼🤘🏼

Trad climber
May 20, 2019 - 03:24pm PT
I think an underlying commonality between climbers and other adventure activities and people who embrace danger as part of their jobs or avocations, is an underlying passion to experience the world in a richer way, and that passion helps keep pain and discomfort in perspective. It becomes easier to associate pain and discomfort with the path of getting to where we want to be, and perhaps as a survival offshoot of that, learning to appreciate even the sucky moments because that is stopping and smelling the flowers along the way.

If you give up enjoying that stuff, you end up unhappy a lot more of the time.

Ice climber
May 20, 2019 - 03:35pm PT
My guess is it's a pretty individual thing.

Not like we're good friends or anything but I do know Bill Walton. He did other stuff too, but mainly he played basketball. Rides his bike now.

Bill had a total of 37 surgeries. The last was his best.

Walton had his worst days well after heíd stopped playing basketball. After collapsing as he got off an airplane, he spent much of 2008 flat on his back, unable to get off the floor. In 2009, he sought help in innovative spine surgery.

"I was lying in that hospital bed Feb. 8 of 2009, and going to go underneath this incredibly risky and tough surgery. And Iím lying there, and Iím thinking, 'Iím not coming out of this. And you know what? I donít care if I donít come out, because this is just not worth it.' And the doctor, Steve Garfin, heís patting my hand next to the gurney. And Iím all hooked up to all the tubes and everything. And Dr. Garfin is saying, 'You know, Iím going to do my best. There are no guarantees.' And, oh my gosh, I was so afraid. And I just had tears, and I thought it was over.

"And so as I hear Dr. Garfin call out across the room to the anesthesiologist for the count to start the drip ó Iíve had a lot of operations, I know what that command means, and Iíve only got a few seconds. And so as the anesthesiologist ó I can hear his voice from across the room as he starts it, and I can feel it coming into my veins. Ten, nine... And I reached out with whatever and little strength that I had and I grabbed Dr. Steve Garfinís forearm. And I looked up at him, I said, 'Please, doc. Please fix me. Please save me. Please give me one more chance.'"

The recovery from that eight-and-a-half hour surgery required an induced coma, months on powerful painkillers and tedious rehabilitation. And howís he doing now?

"I am just doing fantastic, and to be in a life now, where I have no pain, I take no medication. Iím 63 and Iím just getting started, Bill. Iím the luckiest guy in the history of the world."

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 20, 2019 - 04:35pm PT
Riles, having spent a large part of the last 10 months around cancer patients I would be loathe to make generalizations especially seeing as how an injury to the chassis is pretty likely to get fixed reasonably well these days; certainly a far better prognosis than a lot of cancer patients. Also, it isnít going to come back, at least not until you do sumpin stoopid agin.

Trad climber
moab UT
May 20, 2019 - 04:43pm PT
Illness I'm not sure since I haven't been sick since about 1993. When I broke my foot and had bones stickin outa me five pitches up a slab and had to self rescue, with the help of my partner, I toughed it out. When my friend Lisa showed up to take me home the next morning I cried and cried and cried, so a little of both I guess.
Lynne Leichtfuss

Sport climber
moving thru
May 20, 2019 - 04:55pm PT
Rodeo guys, well I've known a few and I think their pain threshold is huge compared to the norm. My theory.....they've gotten thrown off horses and bulls so many times and landed on their heads pain doesn't register as much any longer.

Social climber
May 20, 2019 - 05:09pm PT
hey there, say, riley...

wow, good share, here...

lots of 'trains of thought' from everyone...

some, i know-- no matter if you are a climber, or, whatever, well:
they just DO IT, 'cause they have to'...
the 'endure it all' stuff, in ingrained in them...

though, there IS always a background of sorts, that 'leads up to this tenacity' ...

sometimes, i reckon, we just do not know what it is, until we KNOW the person...
i do know that, it is sad, when folks give up... :(

there is that small hope to 'get over the looming mountain' ... once you are over, no matter how much trouble, the view is 'explainable'
unless you've 'been past the mountain top'...

my hopes and prayers, are always, that FOLKS WILL FIND a way...
if they do not, or, choose not too-- then, my prayers are
for the 'best' to come to them, to ease the onward, to whatever
they want, next...

my friend, who was living in the bombed out streets of world war 2, germany, well, she is 96 and in GREAT pain, in her hip, and knee joints, and can hardly walk or get up:

she just 'keeps on going'... it is part of her 'make up' ...
you GET up in the morning and tackle the day...
no matter what... you just 'do it' ...

i think she has a lot more joy though, that me and her other two friends, help keep her mind off it...

thus-- back to your title, here:

climber camaraderie, i think, REALLY HELPS each other, as they pull through stuff...
SHARING HERE at the taco, REALLY helped so many, as we read the many 'trails' that others here have gone through to get 'past their looming mountain' ...

there are some folks, that can, and want to-- do it alone...
however, a good loyal buddy, or, partner, can
sure help anyone DEAL with these severe injury/illnesses,
better than we realize...

sent you a card... here's hoping for the best for you, riley!

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
May 20, 2019 - 05:43pm PT
I clearly missed something along the way - wtf happened to you?

Sh#t happens - you take it in stride or, as the acerbic mother of a friend once said: "what's the alternative?"

Trad climber
May 20, 2019 - 07:11pm PT
For my part, I would say that climbing has helped me keep a clear head both in my own accidents, one was horrific and I don't wish to describe. It has also helped me deal with becoming a parent when stuff was intense both at birth and in having to deal with all the things that you encounter after.

I think it's the practice of being objective. Pitch by pitch. You can't focus on the dreaded 13th pitch when you are only at the second.

I never worry about the rapid 5 miles downstream. When I fly I am only thinking of my launch. I care nothing about the landing until I have to focus on that.

So I guess it's a matter of living in the present and with climbing and all that I said I feel that is what it is. I know a lot of non-climbers who aren't very good at seeing it that way.

My 2 cents

Flip Flop

Earth Planet, Universe
May 20, 2019 - 07:15pm PT
Someone said that ...
"Success in climbing depends on a high tolerance for pain.....
And a short memory."
Radical Rebirth

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2019 - 07:41pm PT
Wise words, Neebs.
Beyond the answers of our science, philosophy and even The Mind thread.
A billion years of evolved stuff inside us telling is to keep going or sit down and be Buzzard food. Everyone got to eat !! 🤣🤣🤣🙈🤪

Joseph, Hi.
Iím fine . I was so into my own thoughts when I wrote this I had forget about my minor issues.
I wrote a fun story on the ST, June 1st, death thread.

Reilly, Iím so sorry to hear about this news concerning Cancer and your family. I donít even know what to say. I donít understand cancer. I see a lot of it everyday due to our hospital being the local cancer certified center I find a lot of it in patients too. Found a sarcoma in a 12 year old boyís tibia last December. And I canít stop thinking a lot him.

Dale, I had to look that term up.
Good words 🐸🐸

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
May 21, 2019 - 06:58am PT
Pretty much everything I ever did, in my entire life, added up to my survival.

Yes Kathy. Through trial we build strength.
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