CrossFit May Be Killing You

Take stock of the sweeping reign of CrossFit and you realise it’s pretty comprehensively taken over the world of fitness.

Heavily pregnant women love CrossFit. Children as young as three are into it. It’s sidled up to a winning diet that people swear by. And it dubs its heroes the fittest people on Earth.

But for all its triumphs, there’s been a backlash.

First there were reports that the gruelling regimen was so intense it could induce rhabdomyolysis – a potentially fatal condition in which muscle tissue breaks down and is released into the bloodstream.

Then there’s the troubling CrossFit mascot, Uncle Rhabdo, who’s controversially named after that condition.

And now health practitioners are laughing all the way to the bank, Outside magazine reports.

It’s estimated there are 10,000 CrossFit-affiliated gyms (or boxes, as they’re called) around the world.

And with the boom has come a growing number of slipped disks, torn rotator cuffs and incidents of knee tendinopathy.

While injury rates aren’t officially tabulated, the spokesman for the American Chiropractic Association Robert Hayden says the rise of CrossFit related injuries is obvious.

“Among my colleagues, we often share the anecdotal observation that CrossFit is good for our practices,” says Hayden.

High reps and heavy lifting can cause injury.

The nature of CrossFit workouts is causing the trouble. They often include Olympic-style lifting, which demands perfect technique to prevent strain and injury.

Throw in the high number of reps in many of the CrossFit WODs (that’s workouts of the day) and you have a recipe for injury.

“If you have a pre-existing condition – an old ACL tear, tendon damage, or a slipped disc – this kind of exercise will bring it to the surface,” says Hayden.

Of course it’s not all bad.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning recently published a study with staggering results.

In the study, people who undertook a CrossFit program for 10 weeks saw huge gains in their VO2-max measurement, which is a key indicator of fitness.

But in the same study, 16 of the 54 participants quit the program because of overuse or injury.

And in 2011, the U.S. military, in conjunction with the ACSM, advised soldiers to avoid CrossFit, citing “disproportionate musculoskeletal injury risk”.

In CrossFit’s defence, the organisation goes out of its way to warn people that if they can’t maintain proper technique, they should back off.

But taking a step back is hard for devotees who view the workouts as a competition, especially now that the CrossFit Games are so popular (participation is up more than 400 per cent since 2011).

Participation in the CrossFit games has increased 400 per cent in two years.

“This year it seemed like everyone at my box was getting ready for the local competition,” says 32-year-old former college gymnast Emily Carothers, of Maple Valley, Washington, who finished 23rd at this summer’s games.

“Many of them were pushing themselves harder than they should have.”

And this adds to the injury risks associated with the regimen.

Practising good technique, working around your weaknesses, and staying within your limits doesn’t always happen when you’re stampeding to beat the next guy.

But if you approach CrossFit as a sport – with cycles of increased workloads and periods of rest and recovery and an off-season – the risk of injury decreases.

“I’ve been doing CrossFit for three and a half years, and I’ve only had one injury, to my hip,” Carothers says.

“When I was in college, I had nine surgeries in four years. As far as sports are concerned, CrossFit looks pretty good.”

Originally posted                                                                                                                                                6th November 2013

CrossFit can be a great workout. But it is exceptionally important to consider your predisposing weaknesses and biomechanical imbalances before you begin training to reduce your risk of injury. Equally important is to use proper training technique and safe exercise progression. Contact one of our physiotherapists to arrange a screening before you engage in CrossFit or to discuss safe progression of your workouts.

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