Is CrossFit Injury-Ridden?

Say what!? I am asking the question, I’ll point you to a few facts and you can draw some conclusions, or give me your own answer.

First, let’s get more specific. CrossFit in its standalone form is rather safe as long as you are doing the movements correctly.

I am, more specifically asking, is training for the CrossFit Games, or being a CrossFit Games competitor, too taxing, unsafe, or does it cause you to be injury prone?

One thing you have to keep in mind is that CrossFit is still very much in its infancy as far as a “sport” goes. Especially when it comes to the CrossFit Games. The first CrossFit Games was in 2007, and I as I have mentioned before in, “We Found The Fittest Man in 2009, Are We Still Looking?“, I don’t think the CrossFit Games level of intensity, as we see it today, started till 2009. This is when competitors were reportedly doing multiple CrossFit workouts a day as well as strength training and other forms of functional fitness. Now it is just standard. You have to train like a beast to be a beast. But is this new level of intensity and training, only 3 years old, bad for athletes and their bodies? Let’s take a look at some of the top CrossFit Games Athletes.

What do these three CrossFit Games athletes have in common?

Mikko Salo

mikko salo 1024x682 Is CrossFit Injury Ridden?

Sam Briggs

sam briggs Is CrossFit Injury Ridden?

Graham Holmberg

graham holmberg 1024x682 Is CrossFit Injury Ridden?

  1. They are all CrossFit Games Competitors
  2. They have either won or placed in the top 5 of the CrossFit Games
  3. They all have knee injuries!

Sam Briggs and Mikko Salo actually aren’t competing this year due to their injuries. Graham on the other hand had surgery and is back at it full swing.
Some may say that their injuries were caused from other incidents like Mikko having played soccer or Sam from running, but that would come from one source…CrossFit Inc….Well, Sam Briggs actually said she had a weak knee from running, but the injury was from CrossFit, so that is up for debate. The fact of the matter is they were injured recently and they are training for CrossFit, with CrossFit.
If I started a “sport” that had recently gotten a lot of hype I would blame it on other stuff too, so CrossFit may not be the best source. However, I am not trying to start some conspiracy theory.

Conclusions?

  • Honestly, CrossFit is too new and there is not near enough data to actually determine if training for the CrossFit Games is dangerous. It is an interesting idea and something to keep in the back if your mind. As I said earlier, CrossFit is still in its infancy and we do not know the long-term effects of trying to train at such a high level for years on end.
  • Another point, it can’t really be compared to any other sport. Why? Because CrossFit is training. Training is something someone does for sport. But now training = sport. Most sport related injuries are caused from the unnatural movement the sport requires or the physical contact involved in the sport. Most sport-specific injuries are not caused from the training, yet the sport itself. That leaves CrossFit in a whole new category which leaves us with a….Let’s wait and see…

What do you think???

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  • Chris Fonock

    If you are active and doing any type of sport,then you are then prone to injury. You can be sedentary and let your body deteriorate from the inside out which is the extreme alternative, and in my opinion is worse. You cannot sit on the sidelines of life and expect to be fulfulled, no matter what it is, including CrossFit. There is a balance, and being smart about your fitness is a huge necessity if you want to continue to have a body that is in good working order until you leave this earth. Take care of yourself on and off the field of life.

    • Jerred

      So you would agree with the following, “Accumulating injuries is the price we pay for the thrill of not having sat around on our asses” – Mark Rippetoe. Thanks for the comment Chris!

      • NASM Certified

        It is the Trainers responsibility to get you from unfit to fit SAFELY PERIOD! I get the idea of wanting your client to get fit in the shortest time possible and to move weight in amazing ways and tempos to build their confidence and health, but again we got to get them their safely. How healthy is a torn ligament?
        Group training has great energy and a way to make us push hard, the downfall is you may be losing form in an exercise and creating an injury and the coach might not even see it due to attempting to manage training to many clients at one time. Not to mention I see a lot of high impact exercises which can cause injury.
        Don’t get me wrong I think CrossFit Training can be beneficial if maybe was done in the form of 1 on 1 training. With people looking to your for direction, you have to be a good guide and safety first. The way it is now your an injury statistic waiting to happen!

        • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

          Not sure why I am an injury statistic waiting to happen…Personally, I am very safe when lifting or doing CrossFit. When starting out I spent weeks at a time learning how to to things correctly before doing them. However, I consider myself an athlete and my intent when training is not general fitness…it’s more than that. However, if I perform all the exercises safely and smartly and that leads me to injury, so be it.

          The people I train i.e. paid clients are all on a 1 on 1 basis and safety is a top priority.

  • Liz

    Two things come to mind on whether to criticize or blame CF for injuring athletes… 1) Majority of us will never see how these particular athletes move on a day to day basis. If they are repeatedly moving improperly – even slightly at the intensity with which they train – that’ll cause injury over time. And 2) how many of us come into new “sports” with previous injuries anyway? I’ve been thrown from and stepped on by horses enough that if my knees go bad eventually, I can’t really blame it all on the newest sport pursuit. Combine the two and you can have a recipe for injuries, for sure. But it is infinitely better than sitting around as Rippetoe so eloquently said, LOL.

  • Scott

    Interesting question. Interesting that you removed Crossfit from the discussion as causing injury, but then somewhat brought it back when you said the athletes are training for the Crossfit games, by using Crossfit. So wouldn’t this be the same thing as asking does Crossfit cause injuries?
    This is certainly an interesting discussion and comes it up quite often when talking with my friends whom don’t “Crossfit”, me being one of them. The general feeling is that Crossfit does cause injuries. And the only way we know this is from talking to people who have done it, got injured at some point, then stopped doing it. I don’t believe that there is anything inherently wrong with Crossfit itself, but the fact that there are so many small box gyms out there with the Crossfit name on the outside, pushing people into workout/lifts they’re not ready for.
    As you said if you want to be a beast you have to train like a beast. Well I don’t think this is a mentality that has been exclusive to the elite Crossfit athletes. I think its somewhat promoted throughout the Crossfit community. The only problem is desk worker Joe isn’t going to be a beast with 1 month of training, but he’s still trying to lift as though he is.
    I guess to answer your question, I side with Liz. Everyone has nagging injuries here and there and Crossfit can’t take the entire blame for injuring people. However, I do think that Crossfit doesn’t exactly promote a lifestyle of smart training. Training that promotes a healthier lifestyle over “workout till you throw up”

  • Seeley

    Here’s my take…
    After having CrossFited since 2007, with no pre-existing conditions, I’ve had 2 surgeries in the past 6 months correcting injuries caused by my ego mixed with CrossFit. I frayed my distal bicep tendon attempting muscle-ups with a 20# vest and got a SLAP tear in my shoulder from fighting the bar with 225# in an OHS PR attempt. Did CrossFit cause these injuries? Yes, without being exposed to CrossFit I would never dream of attempting those movements. But also no, foolishness and ego caused these injuries. I’m almost completely rehabbed from these injuries and will I go back to CrossFit….HELL YES! I now consider myself ‘seasoned’ and have a whole new outlook on CrossFit. Does that mean my desire to push my boundaries is diminished, nope. Train smart…after all, it’s just a workout…it’s supposed to make us better at life, outside the gym.

  • Seth

    While everyday crossfit training should prepare your body for the crossfit games and the unknown workouts, snatching above your limitations or attempting muscle ups in a completely fatigued state definitely causes injuries. The day after WOD 12.2 and PR’ing my snatch by 15lbs by compromising form (read: extended back) for the sake of competition, I injured my lower back on a simple low weight back squat. I think crossfit causes injuries because of the necessity to push beyond the limits, this necessity is amplified during the games. Can it be prevented? Sure it can…by intelligent programming year round. Beginners like myself with poor mobility and still learning basic form have no place competing in such a technical competition, especially when scaling isn’t much of an option.

  • B4801

    How many injuries does it take for a CFitter to realize that these high intensity circuits are not for me? Just curious. Lots of these CFitters seem to bask in being injured…I personally was ticked when I got injured in 2007 from doing a CF routine…put me out of service for 8 weeks at the gym, and in 26 years I never got injured at the gym. Suffice to say, it only took me once to realize that trying to beat the clock or another person could potentially destroy my body.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that folks are getting off their collective butts and doing something, but they’re going to the point where they’ll potentially injure themselves, and we’re not talking about slight strains or blisters here, and then they’re back to where they were before…these are some serious injuries. CFitters gotta take some responsibility, but I also believe it’s the coaches job to stop them from injuring themselves. The goal is to feel better and become healthier, not to destroy yourself. In the end, you’re just going to see lots of overuse injuries, much like runners…endorphins are addicting.

    • Chris

      Learn how to do the movements properly and be an adult and scale your intensity to your level

  • Misty

    It does not matter what sport you partake in there will always be risk for injury. I’ve actually seen way worse injuries during my cheerleading days than I have ever seen in CrossFit…

    Although, I have definitely seen a lot of people get hurt doing CrossFit, but was it because of CrossFit, I think that is a different question. My opinion is that people get hurt in CrossFit because of 3 main things, first is poor coaching, second is inexperience and third is a big ego.
    Unfortunately in CrossFit it cost 1000$ and no experience necessary to become a coach, and I have seen boxes (my first box) let people with these qualifications coach. This equals trouble not only for new athletes coming in but even for experienced athletes who need refinement so they don’t get hurt under really heavy loads, of which these coaches just can’t provide. I think that good coaching is actually the answer to almost everyone aboves issues with CrossFit. Good coaches know their athletes and what they are capable of and do NOT let them move loads/do movements that they are not ready for.

    If you don’t workout with coaches which is a big group of CrossFitters I think that you have to be even more conscious of load vs. technique b/c you just don’t have that outside view to see things that you can’t while working out. I actually recommend video taping and using that to coach yourself. Don’t assume that just because you moved a load you did it right.

    I think that load vs technique is the biggest struggle for CrossFitters, which is also why inexperienced people obviously have a greater chance of injury, but in my opinion this is something that can be overcome with again…good coaching and listening to your body very carefully.

    ohhh the ego…at some point I think CrossFit will humble most athletes and unfortunately for those whom it will not, they will likely get hurt in order for it to happen. As a coach I like to try to make sure most people are humbled before the option of an injury even attempts to creep up.

    but I get it we all get caught up in the moment and want to push ourselves to really see what our bodies can do, and sometimes we have to pay the price for the decisions we make and sometimes we hit really big PRs :)… I’d be lying if i said it has never happened to me.

  • Scott

    This is an honest question coming from someone who doesn’t do Crossfit, but appreciates the intensity and community it is built around. If everyone who has been injured by doing Crossfit workouts proposes people monitor their lifts, watch technique, monitor weight, or even change what lift is being prescribed, isn’t that just regular weight training? Isn’t much of Crossfit the WOD, or essentially doing prescribed high intensity circuits for time or for reps. Wouldn’t it not be “Crossfit” if people were doing high pulls instead of snatches, and front squats instead of overhead squats, or rack pulls rather than deadlifts? To me that’s simply smart training allowing for progression. I mean I can make up my own little pyramid of 3 lifts and do them for time, but I’m not going to credit Crossfit because they came up with the idea of naming groups of exercises. That’s just me.

    • Misty

      well first no matter if you are doing “crossfit” or “regular weight training” you should monitor your lifts, watch technique, monitor weight, or change weight from prescribed…if you don’t that is just ignorant training in my opinion.
      second, to people who don’t crossfit, yes it appears that the WOD (but i think you actually mean METCON) is what you think appeals to us in our workout program, when in reality that is not necessarily true. The WOD which encompasses dedicated strength training, a METCON as well as skill work (as long as you are in a box with good programming) is a well rounded program that encompasses all aspects of training.
      Thinking that crossfit is about prescribed high intensity circuits is wrong…first yes there is a prescribed weight…that does NOT mean that everyone should do that weight and this IS how people get hurt. it is a recommended weight and just because you are not capable of it does not mean that you should not scale and still do the workout, movements should be scaled so that you accomplish the workout at the same intensity as someone of whom that weight is doable. ex: if i see a 10x155DL prescribed with say 10 pullups, i know i can do those DL unbroken so i recommend to others to use a weight that they can do them unbroken and keeping form which may mean 95lbs for some or 185lbs for others i dont care, but i know the intensity of which i want them to sustain.
      I also think that saying crossfit is just a random subset of movements thrown together is a rather ignorant suggestion, now I will say that at some boxes this is what you will get. but there is a lot of thought and technique that goes into programming correctly and there is method behind pairing of movements in a METCON as well as pairing strength with certain METCONS and the choice of accompanied skill movements for a given day. As I know Jerred has stated a few times that you should program your workouts 30days in advance, why is this important not necessarily so that you have a plan to follow for 30 days, but you should have a goal in 30 days of where you want to be and that programming should be designed to help you (or a gym) reach those goals. Programming is an important and serious task that should not be taken lightly, and if you are pulling random movements just b/c thats what you feel like doing that day and putting them into a METCON I’m not going to say you won’t stay in shape but smart programming and smart scaling and smart training gets you faster, stronger and healthier every single day. but that’s just me

      • Scott

        NOW THAT IS A REPLY WORTH READING! Misty thank you very much for clearing up quite a few of my questions. I guess I still don’t understand what doing Crossfit means. It seems that knowledgeable coaches, such as yourself, are able to massage the workouts/come up with their own to fit athletes needs/limitations. This to me is just good coaching, not necessarily anything that Crossfit has done (kudos to you and coaches like you).
        From what it looks like Crossfit does arm their coaches with general templates and it is the coaches job to fill in the blanks and then get their athletes to perform the given tasks (kudos to Crossfit). I assume this is where Crossfit gets a bad reputation because it can be easy for “coaches” to obtain that title and then carelessly throw their athletes into workouts where they don’t belong.
        But I guess Crossfit doesn’t have to be nearly as cookie cutter as I thought. I just always presumed that unless you did the prescribed lifts, weights, sets, times, whatever, then you weren’t really doing Crossfit. You were simply doing a workout modeled after Crossfit, but it appears I was wrong.

  • B4801

    I have to agree with Scott…those are just random workouts…maybe the program is geared towards the sport of fitness though, IDK…Let’s remember that every program has it flaws…some more than others.

    Can we debate this? “The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind.”

  • brad

    I was training for the games this year. Doing 2 wods a day 5 days a week. One rest day mid week and one at weeks end. I felt great but all ways had a weak knee. It came from a knee injury i suffered playing oztag. A non contact form of rugby. The day the open started i was on the monkey bars at our box practicing after i finished the length when i droped to the ground i dislocated my knee and tore my miniscus to shreds. Turns out all my trouble with my knee was because in the original injury i had completely ruptured my acl and now had lost the stability it was supposed to provide. So did crossfit cause me to tear my miniscus… Yes and no. Well i did tear the miniscus doing crossfit, but the reason i started crossfit was to rehab my knee. What am i saying? Learn your body. If you have a knee injury or “weak knee” get it checked out. If i had had an mri 2 years ago i would have gotten my acl reconstruction prior to crossfit and never torn my miniscus. Is crossfit dangerous? Hell yes if you have a prior condition and don’t manage it properly like me. Is the volume and intensity required to 1 compete at that level and 2 is it safe. For some yes it is required and safe, for most it is not safe. I spent 8 years training hard weightlifting and a few years as a semi professional rugby player doing O lifting and power lifting and sport specific met cons. Thats a fair apprentiship getting you body ready for volume and intensity. One thing that pisses me off though are my athletes that want to do what i do. My reply is you can do what i do. Its simple just start concentrating on learning the movements, and building a strong powerful body. Then after 5 years become a semi professional athlete with a dedicated coach to monitor your progress, have full time physio’s and medical staff to take care of you and in 7 years time you are ready!! sounds easy enough. Oh and i am young. The older i get the more i realise that this volume is not maintainable and not healthy. We make sacrifices for our sport. I look forward to the my rehab from my knee surgery because now i am no longer in games prep. when i am allowed to weight bare i will be another crossfitter doing the wod to be a better person, not to show off how fit and awesome i am. I will go back to crossfit as a sport but for now lets just enjoy crossfit for enjoyments sake

    • Jerred

      Absolutely awesome insight! Thanks Brad!

    • Pete

      Now thats a great and true statement…

    • Jerry

      ” If i had had an mri 2 years ago i would have gotten my acl reconstruction prior to crossfit and never torn my miniscus.” definitely disagree with this statement based on updated research you are making a huge leap from A –> B. This connection is not so simple as can be seen w/ the “copers vs. non copers” and functional movement patterns leading to what appear to acute injury after several years of micro trauma.

  • Russ Greene

    Sam Briggs’ injury started from her competitive running career and was finished off at an Olympic Weightlifting meet, not from CrossFit specifically as stated in this article. 

    Source: http://games.crossfit.com/video/sam-briggs-withdraws-2012

    • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

      Did you read the article, or just the title and look at the pictures? Article states…Sam Briggs’ injury stemmed from running.

      • Russ Greene

        Jerred,

        There is a video as well as an article. 

        Watch from :22 on.

        “This November, I was taking part in an Olympic tlifting competition. The final jerk, I felt a little twinge…”

        • Russ Greene

          Sorry, make that from :19 on.

          • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

            Ah, gotcha. But that would lead me to me next point. Wouldn’t that be considered training for the games as well? I mean she is training for Olympic weight lifting, in hopes to be better at Crossfit. Not to make it to the Olympics. I think that one could go either way. Most likely just a poor training decision on her part.

          • Russ Greene

            Olympic weightlifting has an injury rate, just like gymnastics, the slow lifts, sprinting, and all other components of CrossFit. 

            It’s not that CrossFit is inherently riskier than other sports, it’s that a risk of injury is an inherent component of all sports.

            For an intelligent discussion of injury, you should compare injury rates in CrossFit competition and training with injury rates in soccer, gymnastics, weightlifting, and other competitive sports.

            What you’ve done so far is pick and choose examples to suggest a trend, outside of any statistical context.

          • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

            Actually, I asked a question and was looking for opinion. Thank you for yours. 

            To quote my writing:

            “Honestly, CrossFit is too new and there is not near enough data to actually determine if training for the CrossFit Games is dangerous. It is an interesting idea and something to keep in the back if your mind. As I said earlier, CrossFit is still in its infancy and we do not know the long-term effects of trying to train at such a high level for years on end.”

            To compare to sports that have been around decades longer, would not be a fair comparison. 

            I am a CrossFitter. I just finished an Olympic weightlifting session and two CrossFit WODs, and I will perform more this evening. I have no issues with the sport. 

          • Russ Greene

            Let’s look at another one of your quotes:

            “Another point, it can’t really be compared to any other sport. Why? Because CrossFit is training. Training is something someone does for sport. But now training = sport. Most sport related injuries are caused from the unnatural movement the sport requires or the physical contact involved in the sport. Most sport-specific injuries are not caused from the training, yet the sport itself. ”
            What is your evidence for that?

          • http://endofthreefitness.com/ Jerred

            Another point, it can’t really be compared to any other sport…it really can’t…
            CrossFit is training = fact.
            Training is something someone does for sport = fact. 
            But now training = sport., in regards to crossfit = fact

            Now your argument progresses to what evidence I have; that most sport-specific injuries, in other sports, are created by unnatural movement and physical contact, not training?
            Which is awesome because you went from questioning the entire article to just a sentence of the article which shows, you just like to argue, like me. Are we now to dispute a single sentence? 

            How about I cook up another blog post with the statistical information from sports injuries from training vs. the sport itself. Then I will wait 20 years for CrossFit to have enough statistical data for comparison, after which we can do this again. That is the whole point of the article. Other sports train and get injured and play the sport and get injured. But CrossFit is the only sport where training is the sport, and it is too new to know anything really. 

  • B4801

    Steve Maxwell wrote a good article about CF.

    http://www.maxwellsc.com/blog.cfm?blogID=90

  • Dougg

    xfit is boring. Hey, what vitamins is Sakamoto taking?

  • Pingback: The Five Most Common CrossFit Injuries, Part 1 | i Physio Perth

  • juan

    Every sport creates an imbalance in our body. This imbalance is usually compensated for during weight training. Since Crossfit is competitive training, it is pretty hard to train for imbalances. People don’t get enough rest and “the no pain, no gain” motto is getting people injured.

  • Rich

    10 months after my injury, I was finally diagnosed with intersection syndrome in my wrist. A cortisone shot cleared that up. It’s 13 months since I injured my wrist and still have pains in others parts of my wrist that need to be corrected. One of is probably a trauma induced carpal tunnel that will need to be surgically released.I’ve had a few shoulder injuries due to crossfit as well.

    Needless to say, once I’m 100% again I probably won’t be going back to crossfit. I’ll stick with traditional strength training and conditioning. I never had so many injuries from doing just that. It’s a shame because, I got a lot of people I knew into crossfit and now I feel like I’ve lead them into something that will injure them if they are working out at the intensity I was.

    • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.murray.794628 Daniel Murray

      The cortisone shot didn’t “clear it up”, it masked the symptoms so that you could continue to use the part of the body that your nerves are telling you not to use so that it can heal. So in effect, by covering it up so that you can continue to use it, the cortisol shot has made things worse.

      • Rich

        I just found my reply once again after googling my condition again. It’s been some time so I’ll update where I’m at.

        The coritsone shot that I thought cleared up the injury I found out did not clear it up. I attempted to train after 1 month and the first day back the pain was still there. I had one more failed cortisone shot a few months later. One a side note, I know the mechanism of what a cortisone shot does as I’m a pharmacist. Cortisone shots are a combination of a steroid and local anesthetic. Initially, you don’t feel any pain because the local anesthetic numbs the area for so long depending on its half life but no more than a few hours. The corticosteroid on the other hand take a few days to work because it takes time to increase antiflammatory and decrease inflammatory compounds with ultimate goal of decreasing inflammation and allowing the tissue, a tendon in this case, to heal.

        Nearly 23 months after my initial injury, my orthopedic hand specialist (who is one of top docs in this specialty in the country) and I decided surgery was the best route to go since my symptoms were at stand still and not improving. On 9/11, I had my 2nd & 3rd dorsal compartment released. Initially it was thought I had an extra thumb muscle, but ultimately after moving my fingers in some specific motions, the surgeon was able to determine one my thumb muscles was abnormally long but was probably normal for my anatomy. Surgery went well according my surgeon. It was a fairly straight forward procedure. Currently, I’m undergoing physical therapy and hopefully optimistic that I can return the to gym soon!

  • bkizzle

    I have been a very active person my whole life and awhile ago I decided to see what crossfit was all about. I got hooked right off the bat… I loved the feeling of being beat to the ground after every workout. I continued crossfit for about 6 months and within that 6 month span I saw numerous people get injured, mostly with shoulder and knee injuries. I ended up stopping crossfit because I started to feel like my shoulder was going to dislocate after any workout involving my shoulder and felt like my arm was hanging. I personally believe it was from doing kipping pull ups with a weighted vest, which is a usual practice in crossfit. End result-torn left labrum. Looking back I truly believe that you put yourself at a much higher risk of injury than other activities. Doing Olympic lifts for reps when your extremely fatigued is very risky no matter which way you look at it. There are plenty of other things, but im just using that as an example. I too once thought that crossfir was the best thing out there and no one could tell me different, but after looking back my opinion has definitely changed. There is nothing wrong with people wanting to get in shape, but in my opinion you are putting yourself at a greater risk of injury with crossfit.

  • jonas famas

    I was interested in CF as a complementary exercise but watching CF games I also had some thoughts of injuries. Many or all athletes drop their proper form when they reach their limit and continue. Like not stretching their back in dead lifts or squatting without control.
    Imo they should implement a judging criteria similar like Racewalking, where you get warnings if you don’t use proper technique. Something like 5-10sec penalty so they can get their breath, strength back.
    Just giving an idea to improve this sport.

  • Victor

    Bottom Line. Crossfit may be injury ridden, but I would take an injury in Cross fit over a contact sports injury like Football any day of the week.