The Nature and Prevalance Of Injury During Crossfit Training

With the rise of Crossfit affiliates across the world so comes the increase of injuries related to Crossfit. Does Crossfit really increase the risk for injuries? We’ll take a look at what one study shows.

Brief History Of Crossfit

By now most people are familiar with what Crossfit is and what they’re workouts are like. Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program. Many of its participants are firefighters, military, police, or other professional athletes. Of course, there’s also the every day Joe and Mary Jane as well.

Crossfits are known for their “Workout Of The Day” which features a specific workout (or series of exercises) which push the limits of a person’s strength AND endurance by encompassing both types of physical activity. Often, Crossfit is slammed by those who don’t partake in such types of exercises that Crossfit is risky business due to its nature to push heavy weights for high reps. They criticize that because of that nature, people are at a high risk to injury when moving heavy weights under fatigue.

To those who surround themselves within the Crossfit community we probably all know someone who has injured themselves doing a Crossfit WOD. To those who don’t surround themselves within the Crossfit community (and some other type of active community) we also probably also know someone who has suffered an injury from some sort of other active exercise. So what’s the nature and prevalance of injury during Crossfit training?

Injury Frequency From Crossfit

A study out of the UK came out recently analyzing just that: the nature and prevalance of injury during Crossfit training. Their goal was to determine the risk of injury during Crossfit workout participation and to also look at the pattern of sustained injuries. The study was designed using a cross sectional observational experimental format (if that matters to you at all).

By using an online questionnaire data was collected from Crossfit participants of all athletic levels. Questions included patient and health demographics including age, sex, smoking status, alcohol consumption, and performance enhancing drug use. Training information included total time period spent training as well as weekly training participation. Participants were then asked if they had an injury occur during Crossfit training and to list tye type and number of all of their injuries from the time they started Crossfit training.

Study Limitations:

Recall of the respondents as well as no documentation from actual medical personnel of injuries occurred. Due to the self-selection, respondent bias may have been introduced as well with athletes being injured being more likely to respond than those who haven’t.

Number Of People Who Sustained Injuries From Crossfit

Overall, out of 132 people, 97 of them suffered an injury from Crossfit. That comes out to be 73.5% of participants (almost three out of four people). A total of 186 injuries were reported (more than one per person) with nine participants having injuries so severe it required surgical intervention.

The Most Common Injury Locations: Shoulder and spinal injuries. Next up were arm and elbow injuries.

The good news – no reported rhabdomyolosis (an injury where muscle proteins are so badly damaged that it leads to acute kidney failure).

The average participant spent training in Crossfit per week was about 5.3 hours with an average time doing Crossfit being a little over a year and a half (18.6 months).

Are There A Lot Of Injuries Caused By Crossfit?

By looking at the data that this study suggests (almost three out of four people) that Crossfit has a high risk of injuries. But when taking a look at the injury rates for every 1000 hours trained, the figure holds up to other sports related injuries in other areas of fitness (3.1 injuries for every 1000 hours).

Things To Take Into Consideration:

-The sample size is relatively small. Crossfit has thousands of gyms worldwide. A large sample may show either increased rate of injuries per 1000 hours trained or show less.
-It’s possible that people who suffered a Crossfit injury were more likely to respond.
-The nature of the lifestyle that Crossfit attracts (police, firefighters, military, sports professionals etc..). These individuals tend to be active as it is and may already have underlying muscle/skeletal issues that get exacerbated by Crossfit type workouts.

The Moral Of The Story:

Only take what you can handle. You wouldn’t go and run a marathon the first time you go running. You need to be aware of your body. You also need to be honest with yourself – don’t feel pressured into performing exercises which you know will hurt you. The same goes with lifting weights heavier than you can handle as well.

Have You Ever Suffered An Injury From Crossfit?

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Hak, P., Hickey, B., Hodzovic, E. “The Nature and Prevalence Of Injury During Crossfit Training.” Journal Of Strength Conditioning And Research. 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 May 2014.

  • kathrynkos

    Hi Matt…this scared me. I am starting cross fit tonight for the first time. The box I’m joining is non-competitive and big on yoga, so hopefully it will be a good fit for me! Def. taking it slow though.

  • Thanks Kathryn — hope your box works good for your goals. The important thing to remember is to be in tune with your body and listen to what it might be telling you. Good luck!


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