CrossFit critics love to point out that it can be dangerous.
There’s no doubt, people can get injured doing high intensity training. They also get injured doing gymnastics, playing basketball, skiing, and playing rugby.
If you’ve played sports, be it soccer 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. And life might be even more dangerous.
COACHING IS KEY
When you join a sport, a big 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, or any other fitness program that involves technical skills like Olympic lifting or handstands, rope climbs or pull-ups, without proper care from a professional strength and conditioning coach.
At CrossFit Blacksburg School of Fitness, we believe it’s our job to help you gain strength, speed, power, mobility, stability, as well as ingrain proper movement patterns to prepare you for whatever life throws at you. Our belief has always been that the movements you learn in personal training will prepare you for life, whether you’re an aspiring CrossFit or Olympic Games athlete, or a grandma looking to stand up off a public toilet until she’s 100 years old.
Our job isn’t to supervise an on-ramp, fundamentals or bootcamp group class of 30 athletes throwing weights around and often moving poorly. Our job is to provide you with the proper tools that cater to your specific health and fitness needs and goals.
ADDRESSING THE CRITICS
There have been a number of peer-reviewed journal articles that attack CrossFit methodology. Some are flawed, like a 2013 article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which is now in question for academic fraud. Mitch Potterf, a CrossFit affiliate owner in Columbus, Ohio is trying to prove in court the authors of the latter study did nothing short of make up injury data. He wants to study debunked. More information about the lawsuit can be found in this CrossFit Journal article.
Here is another article from 2014 published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research about CrossFit and injuries.
The authors of the latter 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.
BLAME THE PEOPLE, NOT THE PROGRAM
At CrossFit Blacksburg School of Fitness, we believe that while injuries can, and will inevitably happen, it is the people, not the training itself, that tend 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 135-lb. 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.
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.
KEEPING THINGS SCALABLE
There are many athletes at CrossFit Blacksburg School of Fitness who are not clear to kip their pull-ups. 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 repetitions of kipping chest to bar pull-ups safety, 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.
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.
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,” 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.
The article also suggests 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 we 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 12-20 hours learning the movements safely before we release them to group classes.
So while the article can be seen as threatening to CrossFit affiliates worldwide because it accuses the training as being dangerous, we believe if you’re coached properly you’ll find yourself healthier than you’ve been in years.