Grip lock is most prevalent in men’s gymnastics, and specifically occurs on high bar when wearing grips.
Male gymnasts use grips, a hand guard made of leather with a dowel inserted toward the top, to help protect their hands from friction while swing on the high bar and to help improve grip strength so that they can remain in contact with the bar.
When a male gymnast is performing a circling skill (like a giant swing) in an over grip position on high bar and the dowel becomes locked around the bar, as a result of the leather of the grip near the fingertips becoming caught around the bar, the grip can tighten and lock around the high bar .
This is known as “grip lock”!
An injury to the wrist and forearm occurs as a result of grip lock as the athlete continues to rotate around the bar with the hand remaining in the over grip “locked” position. Grip lock stops or limits the athlete from “shifting” their grip on the bar as they continue to rotate around the bar.
A major factor that can lead to grip lock are old worn out and over stretched grips. In addition, new grips that are too large for the athlete’s hand can also result in grip lock.
Another suggested factor of grip lock could be the smaller diameter of the men’s high bar and the larger hand size of a male gymnast.
Unfortunately, there are injuries associated with grip lock.
Some injuries can be minor but many can be major injuries affecting an athlete’s training and future career in the sport.
Injuries associated with grip lock include forearm fractures, breaks, sprains, strains, and tendon injuries.
In a study of injuries related to grip lock published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine by Dr. Matthew Samuelson, Dr. David Weiss, and Bruce Reider found;
Thirty-eight high school coaches reported 17 injuries and 32 college coaches reported 21 injuries for a 10-year period; 36% of the coaches responding reported at least one such injury in their program. Of the 23 injured gymnasts who returned detailed questionnaires, 20 had sustained fractures and 9 required surgery. The distal forearm or wrist were the areas injured most often. Fourteen gymnasts had residual pain, seven had functional limitations, and eight had limited motion in the wrist.
To help prevent grip lock, athletes can do some personal equipment (grips) safety maintenance checks.
This can include monitoring grip size; proper fit (too big or small), observing any grip breakdown, stretching, or distortion.
Gibson Athletic came out with a video on how to properly size grips for high bar.
Disclaimer – The best evaluation of grip size/fit is to speak with your coach and to work with them to get the best fitting grip for your athlete!
Sources: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, journals.humankinetics.com, journals.sagepub.com