The interview to the Physiotherapist Fabio Moioli

Our team manager Paolo Catteneo interviewed Fabio, a physiotherapist for the Italian National Junior and Senior team for lead, boulder and speed sport climbing. Fabio also knows three of our athletes very well, Giorgia Tesio, Pietro Biagini and Matteo Manzoni who are in the National team.

Hello Fabio, you are a physiotherapist and work in a centre for functional assessment and integrated athletic preparation in Bergamo.

For sure you know a lot about many different sports and about working with elite athletes, how did you come to get involved with sport climbing?

For many years now, my education and my passion have increasingly moved towards athletes from various disciplines: swimming, volleyball, football, diving, dance, skiing and snowboarding and athletics etc.… When I was approaching these new worlds, I was lucky enough to be get to know many athletic trainers who considered the union of our two professional figures fundamental to increase the performance and reduce the risk of injury. After having treated some climbers, I received a call from the National Climbing Team Manager who offered me to trial a collaboration for one year with their speed, lead and boulder teams, directly involved in the competitions and from here we are always trying to create more of a multidisciplinary team that embraces the need for an athlete at 360 degrees.

In modern sport, the figure of technique (the trainer for everyone) for several years has been supported by other important figures such as the athletic trainer, the sports psychologist and more and more often the physiotherapist. How did your journey begin with the Climbing Federation and how do you see this concept of an enlarged working team?

Personally I consider the collaboration amongst these professional figures essential, each of them arrives with a different cultural background but this is also necessary in order to shape and mold an elite performing athlete. There should be no barriers between these figures, instead they should all support each other with their own experience of the weak links of the others.

You started working with the competitions in the world of climbing and you have worked with the Italian National Junior and Senior team for two years, how is your position regarded and how much is understood by the modern competitive climbers?

At the beginning, I found it difficult to make myself understood with the younger ones, but above all to the old school athletes, explaining the importance of the biomechanics of the movements or the concept of moving without having to overcome resistance created by our own body. To improve their performance it is not all about pulling more holds or doing one arm pullups, but rather to know and to listen to the body to find the weak links and then work on them. I love working with them and vice versa… I hope!

Does it work even with the younger ones? Do they understand and appreciate the significance of your work both pre and post competition?

Above all, it works well with the younger ones, because they have a more open mind and I am always very keen to see what happens to their body when they engage in sports.

What are the main things that you have to perform on the athletes on competition days? What are the muscle and joint problems that you encounter most often? Do you find differences in trauma/ fatigue with reference to the three different climbing disciplines (speed, boulder and lead)?

You could really write a dissertation on these subjects. During the competition days, you go from doing simple massages pre-post competition, to the mobilization and manipulation of joints involved in situations of rigidity, to pacific exercises to stabilize a section of the body that has a higher mobility than the physiological range of the joint. You put on functional bandages that even supports some crisis in the worst moments of tension.

The most affected areas are the spine, often in the cervical region and in the lower back are often victims of poor management of the area or dorsal stiffness (sore point for climbers). Various problems with the shoulder, the elbow and the hand are less frequent. Another increasingly frequent pain is in the posterior region of the knee due to the technique of the heel hook, in which the rear thigh muscles play an important role in avoiding this problem.

Regarding the differences in problems that exist in the three disciplines, I would say that the real difference is the type of athlete more than the discipline itself, because the neuro muscular skeletal characteristics that every athlete develops through pursuing one of the three disciplines of climbing and then determines the limits and the overload.

At every competition, we see more and more athletes covered in these famous coloured ribbons in different parts of the body, do you also work a lot applying the kinesio taping? Do you find it a good support for the performance?

The use of kinesio taping has multiple fields of use, such as to reduce the post-traumatic swelling, desensitization of a particularly painful area, in any case I find the technique fundamental for the postural correction of some joints: when the tape is applied in the correct way, with greater ease the athlete can perceive the correct position of the humeral shoulder girdle in a shoulder that has been shifted forward for example.

Today’s young athletes complete the work to be done directly on the wall with numerous exercises using only their body, stimulating their receptivity and stability of the body in general. Does having this base help in preventing minor injuries that findings show are more frequent in competitions/training?

This is exactly what we are trying to convey to our athletes, our objective is to create inside of them the vision for training that includes the specific technical part, the core stability part, the mobility part and the proprioception. In this way there is less chance of getting injured which if that happens it then forces the athlete to completely stop for a period of time which then affects their performance. Thus, absolutely essential.

One curiosity, how do you interpret the work of your “colleagues” who are involved with other National teams, do you compare knowledge during the competitions or is each to their own holding on tight to their own knowledge?

It is one of the aspects of my job with a very enthusiastic team; we have great respect for one and other and it tends to happen more and more often that we confront each other’s knowledge. With the Austrian National Team, we have practically become brothers.

And finally… can you give us two tips from Fabio for the “future Italian climbers”.

I think it is fundamental to push the new climbers to observe and to be observed, to then ask questions and to seek answers to why they are not able to do a boulder problem or they cannot hold a hold or they did a movement was too slow… they mustn’t give up after the disappointment of a defeat but instead find the means to understand exactly why. For some of them it will be the head, for others it will be strength, for others coordination and for others the muscular “elasticity”… but finding the weak link or weak links will give them a target to aim for that is always increasingly higher. Finally, never lose the enthusiasm that you have from a young age for a wall, sometimes the negative tension makes your legs shake in front of the same wall as an adult. Good luck everyone!

Who is Fabio Moioli

I graduated in 2005 at the University of Milan Bicocca.

However, seeing as I love sport, I tried to get closer to sport both through post-graduate courses and also working in private centres that allowed me to connect with these figures.

Today, besides being the physiotherapist for the Italian National Junior and Senior team, I also work at a centre in Bergamo where I have the possibility to help the athletes with everything they need: from the evaluation to specific training programs, and from specific food planning to the psychological approach.

Paolo Cattaneo