Organ and joint repair/ replacement is at the front line of pushing life expectancy. The battle, however, is already lost—it is a game of how long you can parry the swords of aging. With influencing factors ranging from genetics to diet, trauma to exercise-induced protection, the strategy for longevity is more complicated than a triple helix snowflake.
There are, nevertheless, some preventative measures you can take while still young to preserve your joints, and if you are older, prevent further joint degeneration.
Don’t Be Stupid
Shit just happens, but what if you routinely checked the stupidity barometer? How many accidental injuries could you avoid? I once jumped between two boulders because someone dared me (dumb). I didn’t think to take my climbing shoes off before launching and promptly cracked a bone in my heel (dumber!).
Use the fattest crash mat you can find, and then throw your mate’s pad on top of that. Bone fractures through the joint surface, such as the type you can get from landing hard, are the jet-fuel of arthritic degeneration. Fractured ankles and torn knee ligaments and meniscus will set you up for joint degeneration after middle age.
The best mountaineers in the world use trekking poles, so get over your obsolete youthful arrogance and buy a pair. Poles are extremely effective in offsetting shock to the knees and hips. That translates to longevity in joints that are prone to break down.
Pamper Old Injuries
Any old injury of significance needs to be mollycoddled when it comes to impact loading. For instance, shock loading already decrepit knees is not so much reckless as it is cavorting around a cauldron of red-hot trouble. If you have damaged the joint previously, you will need to take care.
Strength is the currency of healthy joints as it affords stability and control; imagine a sports car with a tight suspension navigating an obstacle course. When a joint is stable its steering is less likely to rattle around causing accumulative damage.
A good belayer should be treated like your soulmate— you don’t want to lose them. Why? For the same reasons that you want a crash mat. A foot in a rock shoe that slams into a hard surface is far more likely to fracture. A soft catch will save you from all sorts of joint stress, be it from impact with the cliff or hitting the end of the rope so hard that you get whiplash- related joint damage.
This article appeared in Rock and Ice 241