CrossFit: what the research shows us about injuries
CrossFit is a unique exercise form which extends beyond the classical High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which have gained popularity over the last 10 years. CrossFit is a great form of exercise for those looking to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, endurance and body composition. Additionally, the psychological health benefits such as satisfaction, exercise enjoyment and resilience are recognised in the literature (Gianzina et al., 2019).
CrossFit places a large demand on the body's systems, and injury rates are comparable to Olympic weightlifting, rugby, soccer, football and distance running (Klimek et al., 2018). This is not to deter or scare anyone from participating in CrossFit, as we know there are many benefits of this form of exercise. With this in mind, we will cover what the most common CrossFit injuries are, and the top tips we recommend to keep your body healthy and prevent injuries.
Most Common CrossFit Injuries
Shoulder issues such as Rotator Cuff-Related Pain, shoulder dislocations or muscle strains are the most common injuries seen in CrossFit participants. Inadequate strength and control around the shoulder can lead to pain, instability or discomfort, particularly when doing loaded overhead movements.
Back injuries can also occur during CrossFit. There are various back injuries, however, the most common diagnosis is Non-Specific Low Back Pain (NSLBP) where the back pain is not attributed to any single structure. Whilst back or spine injuries can seem threatening, it is important to remember that our spine is resilient, and is built to withstand a large amount of force.
Knee injuries such as PatelloFemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), meniscus tears, or patella tendinopathy also occur in some people who participate in CrossFit.
Tips for a healthy CrossFit journey
Mobility training: Mobility is incredibly important for CrossFit. Maintaining mobility through dynamic stretches is a great way to increase your performance and reduce your risk of injury. For example, a good quality squat requires there to be enough range in the hip, knee and ankle.
Stability training: the ability to control your body throughout different movements is crucial in providing a stable-base for CrossFit exercises. An example of stability training is a 'Dead Bug' (shown in the picture below) which focuses on maintaining control in the torso whilst moving the arms and legs.
Warm-up and cool-down: These two are often neglected, however, have a great impact on blood flow optimisation and recovery.
Find the right CrossFit trainer for you: Considering technique and appropriate loading are two major factors which dictate injury risk in CrossFit participants, the evidence shows that having adequate supervision during CrossFit training is a crucial part of injury prevention and management. Find CrossFit trainers that suit your needs or level of expertise and can provide feedback on form.
Seek assistance early: Should there be any injuries or niggles, evidence shows that the best recovery occurs in those that seek early treatment from a health professional within a week of injury.
Maintain adequate nutrition: Make sure to compliment your energy expenditure with adequate nutritional intake. Should you have further questions, please reach out to an accredited Sports Dietitian for guidance.
The Movement Workshop works with patients to achieve their fitness goals. If you are a CrossFit enthusiast with an injury or concern, please feel free to reach out to our South Melbourne Physiotherapists for assistance. We pride ourselves in doing an in-depth assessment and tailored treatment of our patients, and can provide a handover to your CrossFit trainer about your injury.
Gianzina, E. A., & Kassotaki, O. A. (2019). The benefits and risks of the high-intensity CrossFit training. Sport Sciences for Health, 15, 21-33.
Klimek, C., Ashbeck, C., Brook, A. J., & Durall, C. (2018). Are injuries more common with CrossFit training than other forms of exercise?. Journal of sport rehabilitation, 27(3), 295-299.