CrossFit and Injuries: The Safety in Proper Training – by Michael Price
Study say that CrossFit can lead to injuries. We say one-on-one personal coaching makes it much safer.
CrossFit critics love to point out that it can be dangerous.
There’s no doubt that people can get injured doing high intensity training. They also get injured doing gymnastics, playing basketball, skiing, and playing rugby. If you’ve done sports, be it hockey or hiking, you’ve probably sustained an injury. Heck, you’ve probably injured yourself doing even silly things like moving a couch or reaching for something in the backseat as you drive.
The point: Sports are dangerous. Life is dangerous.
When you join a sport, part of the reason you get coached is to keep you safe. You’d never join a gymnastics class and attempt back flips without proper instruction. And you should never begin CrossFit and start doing Olympic lifting, handstands, rope climbs and pull-ups without proper care from a professional strength and conditioning coach.
At Perpetua, we believe it’s our job to help you gain strength, speed, power, mobility, stability, as well as ingrain proper movement patterns for life, to prepare you for whatever life throws at you. The idea has always been that the movements you learn in personal training will prepare you for life, whether you’re an aspiring athlete or a mother of four – looking to stay functionally fit till you’re 100 . Our job isn’t to watch you in an on-ramp group class along with 20 other athletes throwing weight around that’s too heavy for you at a high intensity, over and over – which is why all of you have been through one-on-one personal training.
Getting to the critics:
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published an article in 2014 about CrossFit and injuries.
The authors of the article followed 132 CrossFit athletes and concluded that injury prevalence during CrossFit training is similar to sports like gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting, and lower than contact sports like rugby. Shoulder and spine injuries were reported the most often.
The study took into consideration many different variables:
“The questionnaire included patient and health demographics including age, sex, smoking status and alcohol consumption. And performance enhancing drug use,” stated the authors of the study. But what the study didn’t report—which is arguably more important than age, sex and smoking status—was whether or not the athletes getting injured were being coached individually, or if they were simply hitting high intense, random workouts day after day without due care for their own personal physical limitations. It didn’t take into consideration whether they were being coached at all, for that matter.
At Perpetua, we believe that while injuries can, and will inevitably happen, it is the people, not the training itself, that tends to be the biggest cause of these injuries.
For example, if you’re an athlete with limited shoulder mobility and scapular stability and you try to lift 60kg over your head for 30 reps in a row, there’s a higher chance of getting injured than someone who has been properly trained, and who has the strength, power, technical ability, as well as mobility and stability to handle the volume and load.
So while the article can be seen as threatening to CrossFit affiliates worldwide because it accuses the training as being dangerous, we do not see it this way. Instead, the article presents real data about injuries among 132 of its study subjects. And it provides Perpetua with data that will help steer new athletes to coaches who will help them avoid injuries.
The article goes on to list certain aspects of CrossFit movements that make people particularly susceptible to injury.
The kipping motion is one of these movements. “This may lead to the unusually high prevalence of shoulder injury…,” the article stated. This once again comes down to personal responsibility in terms of selecting appropriate movements for each individual.
There are many athletes at Perpetua who are not clear to kip. One of the key concepts of the CrossFit methodology is that each movement and workout is universally scalable. So while some athletes may have adapted to and have the fitness to complete 100 reps of kipping chest to bar pull-ups safely, others practice ring rows or strict pull-ups in bands that assist them in order to protect their shoulders, or simply to build strength before introducing the kip safely.
Figuring out what movements are right for you is crucial to your training. And by the time you reach group classes, you will know your “Rosetta Stone of CrossFit movements,” so to speak. Your Rosetta Stone helps you translate how to scale movements to meet your current limitations. And, of course, as you improve, your Rosetta Stone will change.
Another example of a higher risk movement is the snatch. We keep some people away from snatches. We might have those individuals do some light overhead squats with a dowel, or simply some strict press, as well as some scapula stability drills in lieu of squat snatches.
Even when you know your Rosetta Stone and are comfortable scaling movements appropriately, your one-on-one training shouldn’t end there. Once in classes, you should continue to meet with your coach periodically in a one-on-one environment. Your personal coaches will continue to help you strengthen your weaknesses, as well as sharpen technique on the more challenging technical movements.
In terms of practical applications, the article suggests, among other things, that there needs to be a greater focus on technique and strength training, “especially during the initial introduction to training,” the authors stated.
While it might not seem like rocket science, it’s something that’s still lacking in the fitness industry, and it’s something Perpetua figured out long ago. It’s the reason we don’t do on ramps and group intros. It’s the reason every single one of our athletes spends 10-15 hours learning the movements safely before we release them to group classes. Safety first.
More reading here on why we do it the way we do.