by Dan Shuman, DC, CCSP
Crossfit has taken the fitness industry by storm. It is mind boggling to be driving through the small towns surrounding Atlanta and find numerous Crossfit gyms. It has a reputation for providing members with outstanding results and a strong community. Despite these attributes, it is not without risk. Crossfit injuries are so common that a recent study published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association done at Ohio State department of Human Sciences implies indirectly that Crossfit participants may be at higher risk of injury than participants of other fitness programs. The full research is linked at the end of this article.
This article however is designed to explain the nature of the added risk, as well as steps to minimize those risks for those wishing to participate in Crossfit.
Crossfit is a highly driven program that is designed to push your body farther and harder than you might ever have excepted otherwise. Military bootcamps have been doing this for generations to produce soldiers, but they have the advantage of decades of training experience and built-in safeguards. Crossfit relies on a great deal of self regulation and monitoring of your own body’s limits. In the heat of the moment and when striving for those additional reps to reach a new personal record (PR), participants may overlook the warning signs that they are exceeding their body’s capabilities.
It is also no small difference that many of the participants at crossfit gyms are a bit older than your average military inductee. Thirty+ year-old bodies lack the flexibility and resilience of 18 year-olds, but in a group setting, those differences may be overlooked or ignored.
Finally, given that many of the folks drawn to Crossfit are there for the fast results, it is not unusual that some might overlook their body’s need for rest and recovery time in an effort to get their desired results as quickly as possible. Without proper recovery, added training places the participant at added risk. Muscles and ligaments need time to heal between training sessions to repair the micro-trauma that training inflicts in order to become stronger over time.
So, given these facts, what can a person do to minimize the risk of injury and still enjoy the benefits of this highly effective fitness program?
According to Dr. Dan Shuman at 1st Choice Sports Rehab Center, there are three keys to preventing injury while participating in Crossfit.
Three Keys to Prevent Crossfit Injuries
1. Know what your limitations are and modify your technique for your own specific, posture, flexibility level, age, and general fitness. Dr. Shuman suggests a Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) which provides the prospective Crossfit participant with a baseline view of their areas of weaknesses, and how to work around them until they can be overcome. Joint mobility, posture, body symmetry, and strength all play a role in determining what is safe – for the individual. Many Crossfit facilities may provide some degree of screening, but the SFMA is the gold standard and is performed by a trained healthcare professional. Some Crossfit facilities partner with healthcare facilities to provide discounts on the SFMA for prospective members.
2. Listen to your body. Working through the pain may be a catchy phrase but it is always better to go slower in the early stages as your body becomes used to new loads and patterns of movement. As your fitness increases, it will be less critical, but just as important to continue to monitor your own limits. That PR will still be attainable tomorrow – unless you injure yourself and have to spend weeks recovering. The burn that you get from the workout can be a good thing but pain that prevents you from performing is not normal and should be investigated.
3. Give yourself enough rest between workouts. In this case more exercise is not always better. Finding the proper balance between heavy exercise days and recovery days will ultimately insure the best outcome. Look for signs of overtraining like fatigue, decreased performance and inability or slower recovery times. You’ll know your body is ready to go again when your energy levels return and you are able to train at or surpass previous training levels.
Finally if your gym imposes a one size fits all program, it may not be wise to participate if you are significantly older or less fit than those participating. Look for another Crossfit facility that provides a more personalized approach to your fitness level, goals, and needs.
While no degree of advice can guarantee that you will never have a crossfit injury or setback, following these recommendations will help to minimize the risk and increase the chance that your Crossfit experience will provide you with the results you and thousands of others are seeking.
Dr. Dan Shuman is a Georgia native and has lived in Atlanta for the past six years. He is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of LaGrange College and a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Life University. He is also a nationally certified Active Release Techniques Instructor. To schedule an appointment call 404-377-0011.