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CrossFit and Injury – A Real Perspective

I find myself getting more and more frustrated with people telling me, “I heard CrossFit is really bad for you; you’re just gonna end up getting injured.”

Let me give you a first hand account and a REAL perspective on my injuries and CrossFit training. I first came to Hyperfit USA in the beginning of June, 2013. Upon entering, I filled out an information sheet on my physical health, how many times per week I currently worked out, and any pains, injuries, or concerns I had about my body.

At that time, my right knee was giving me problems and I expressed great concern for my right shoulder. I feared what would happen if I pushed it much further. My shoulder had gotten so bad over the years that reaching over to put on a seatbelt became a daunting task; raising my arm, even half way up to wave to someone sent so many shooting pains into my shoulder and back that I ALWAYS used my left, and doing a simple push-up… well, that became more painful than it was worth.

To no surprise, doctors said the wear and tear of playing sports and lifting over the years had finally taken its toll, and it was time to think on and reconsider surgery. This was the last thing that I wanted and resisted it with every fiber of my being. So you may be asking… “And you decided to jump into CrossFit as a result? Are you crazy?” Think what you will, but joining Hyperfit USA in Ann Arbor, MI was the best decision I could have made in regard to my surgery proned shoulder.

I spoke with Doug Chapman, the owner of Hyperfit, and told him of my concerns. I expressed to him that I wanted to avoid surgery at all costs, until there was absolutely no other option. He said, “I get it. Let’s see what we can do.” Doug personally began looking at my range of motion, what parts of my shoulder hurt, and where the pain would go when I did various activities. Immediately, I was given a variety of therapeutic techniques that aided in the healing and strengthening of my shoulder muscles and tendons.

The next common question that has been posed to me is, “Well, what about the workouts? How did you get through those?” The answer is simple. It’s called M O D I F I C A T I O N. What the outside world does’t know and most don’t bother to research is that not every person that walks into a CrossFit gym is an elite athlete, nor are they expected to be. Every movement… and I mean EVERY movement can be modified to fit that individual’s needs and ability level. “Oh, you can’t do a strict pull-up yet, let’s try using a band. Is that still too painful? We’ll bring you over to the rings, and teach you how to do a proper ring row to build strength in that area. Are you not ready for that yet? I understand; go grab a box; I’m going to show you how to do a jumping pull-up.”

It wasn’t until I came to a REPUTABLE gym, with skilled trainers that watched every movement I made, that my injuries and range of motion became better than they have been in 10+ years. Additionally, my technique and skill in the Olympic lifts are better than they’ve ever been.

Would you like to know why CrossFit gyms get such a bad name?? It’s because there are a lot of bad ones out there. Just like there are a lot of olympic lifting coaches that you may find that encourage getting your new one rep max over adhering to safety and good technique. The key is to know what’s good and what isn’t. Let me give you a hint… If you walk into a CrossFit gym, without having gone through any introductory sessions, but you tell them that you work out all the time and have been lifting at gyms for years, and they say, “Alright, we have a WOD starting in 10 minutes; just fill out this waiver and you can give it a try,” RUN! Run for the hills!

Although I have power lifting friends, some that do CrossFit also, much of the bad press that CrossFit gets, comes from them. A former trainer at Hyperfit USA and I had a conversation about this some time back. He said, in explanation of why many power lifters feel this way is, “Power lifters focus on doing a lift one time, with max weight, and doing it with perfect movement. That’s not what we do here.” Obviously, there is nothing wrong this. “What a lot of power lifters don’t want to admit is that Power Lifting was a dying sport. CrossFit has helped bring it back to life. It is what it is.”

Here is where power lifters are correct. In CrossFit, we don’t do an olympic lift just one time in workout. We do that movement in reps and sets, along with other conditioning movements, like burpees, ring dips, and box jumps. CrossFit is designed to enhance one’s overall fitness and athletic ability, not put the focus solely on one movement. BUT here is the key–doing olympic lifts in reps DOES NOT mean you sacrifice good technique and core stabilization.

So back to the original point, injuries and CrossFit. The only time these two go hand in hand is when one doesn’t work with quality trainers and doesn’t belong to a gym that puts the individual first: keeping safety, technique, and humility right where it belongs… as a primary functions of the athlete.

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