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10/19/15 3:13 PM

Over the course of the last year, I have worked closely with CrossFit instructors and participants in the Pacific Health Club.  The CrossFit gym is located across the indoor track from my office, and it has allowed me to develop relationships with these people so that I could become more educated on the trending phenomenon. I have grown to view CrossFit as more of a sport then a workout, where individuals can come together in a community with a common interest to maximize their physical output. I have seen people push themselves further then they thought they could go, and I have seen people transform their physical and mental fitness into something great. Unfortunately, crossfit has developed a reputation especially among health care professionals as being dangerous to one’s health. Many people believe anyone who participates in crossfit is at an extreme increase in risk of not only injury but also rhabdomyolysis.


I have spent countless hours scouring through the literature, blogs, etc in attempt to come across any valid and reliable sources that illustrate that risk of injury in CrossFit. Unfortunately, to this date there have been no high-level research articles published on crossfit. I believe this will soon change especially as the popularity of CrossFit and the CrossFit games continues to increase.






One article I read online included a questionnaire that was issued to 132 crossfit participants. They determined 73% endured some variation of an injury or source of pain that became severe enough to interfere with their work/school. 7% of these individuals required surgery to correct the injury. The overall statistics determined that there was a rate of 3.1 injuries per 1000 hours trained.The injury rate of CrossFit is in-line with sports such as Olympics weight lifting, power lifting, gymnastics, and long-distance running. The injury rate is lower than contact sports such as football and rugby. None of the 132 participants experienced any symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. In addition, there has been no association with increased risk of cardiovascular impairments. In fact, people who train CrossFit tend to have improved blood pressure, heart rate, sp02 levels, and respiratory rate over people who do not train with CrossFit.


Lastly, there have been links between CrossFit and rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which the muscle tissue breaks down and leaks its contents into the blood causing kidney damage. This condition is extremely rare and there have been no valid and reliable studies verifying this myth. People get rhabdomyolysis when they push their bodies through severe pain, vomiting, and signs of exhaustion. If crossfitters and other people who train hard listen to their bodies and are aware of their limitations, they will avoid this potentially fatal condition.


In summary I am not ready to validate the notion that the risk of injury outweighs the benefits of crossfit. I am a health-care professional that relies on evidence-based practice to drive my interventions in the clinic. I need to see high quality studies on CrossFit before I can feel confident with my opinion on it. With that being said, I have come up with a few easy ways for people to self-assess their risk of injury (geared towards anyone who trains with high intensity). I have also included stretches and exercises that may help with muscle imbalances to decrease the risk of injury based on the results of their self-assessment. Please read my next blog that will help you evaluate your upper extremity function (shoulder, elbow, wrist) in relation to the most popular exercises in crossfit gyms.


Not sure if you are truly STRONG, STABLE or FLEXIBLE? One of our therapists will complete a Functional Movement Screen to score your risk for injury.


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For more tips on preventing injury, check out our blog on Cross Training.


Written by Kevin Brown, PT.

Kevin Brown is a contributing author and a licensed physical therapist.

Topics: tips, crossfit, risk of injury