I’m often asked about injuries in CrossFit and if it’s dangerous. It could be questions from a health journalist. It could be an active person looking to start a CrossFit training program. It could be an experienced CrossFit enthusiast. The perception that CrossFit is a dangerous training regimen appears to widely exist.
A study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine shines light on CrossFit injuries. Benjamin M. Weisenthal and others collected data obtained from surveys of CrossFit participants in Rochester, New York City and Philadelphia. The researchers asked each person about injuries they suffered over the prior six months.
The following findings not only answer some of the questions about injuries in CrossFit but also suggest an effort that might decrease injuries.
Statistics on CrossFit injuries
- 19.4% of CrossFit participants suffered an injury in the six months before the study.
- The most common injury locations were the shoulder, lower back and knee.
- Male participants had a higher rate of injuries than females.
- There was no significant difference in injuries among different age groups.
- There was no significant difference in injury rates when looking at the participants’ length of training sessions.
- There was no significant difference in injuries based on the length of time participants had been involved with CrossFit.
- The level of coach supervision appeared to have a strong effect on injury rates.
Is CrossFit more dangerous than other forms of exercise?
My initial reaction was that the injury rate found in this study was fairly low. Essentially 1 in 5 members suffered an injury in the previous six months. It was a survey, so it is possible that the members didn’t remember aches and pains they felt during that time. Also, comparing injury rates between types of exercise is difficult for a number of reasons, so we need more studies on injuries in CrossFit before we can say with any certainty.
How can CrossFit participants decrease their injury risk?
If there is one obvious recommendation, it would be to work out at CrossFit facilities with coaches actively involved with the training. The coaches can teach proper form for each exercise. They can adjust the weights or reps for each member based on experience or age. They can modify programs based on members’ injury history or current areas of pain. Not only should people currently involved in CrossFit work closely with coaches, but people looking at different CrossFit gyms should factor in coach involvement into their choice of location.
Weisenthal BM, Beck CA, Maloney MD, DeHaven KE, Giordano BD. Injury rate and patterns among CrossFit athletes. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014;2(4).