This October, CrossFit HQ won a class action lawsuit against the NSCA over filing false reports on the injury rate of participants of the popular fitness program (you can read more about it here). Basically, to sum it all up, the NSCA was judged to have published intentionally false reports on how many people were getting hurt while working out at CrossFit boxes. This is sad for a couple of reasons, but in my view mostly because the NSCA is meant to help people lead healthier, happier lives, just like everyone else in the fitness industry. If there is a modality out there that is accomplishing that task, I would hope they would find a way to work together, not be trying to break down CrossFit for fear of lost market share.
However, this did make me consider the common misconception that CrossFit is inherently dangerous. I believe this stems from a variety of influences, but perhaps the greatest outside of the aforementioned false reports, is the presentation of CrossFit through public messaging systems such as social media and TV. What you see presents only one half of CrossFit, and makes that argument that CrossFit is a sport. What happens at the CrossFit Games every year is every bit as much of a sport as is gymnastics, weightlifting, or running. As such, we have to understand that since CrossFit is a sport, we have to treat it like a sport in the way we program.
Games athletes, or even those training to make Regionals or potentially the Games someday, follow a very different program than does the normal, everyday person with different goals. This means their training has to be different, as well. For the person looking to simply get healthier, I’m not sure that Olympic lifting is necessary at all, and it definitely is not needed in a conditioning environment. Conversely, if CrossFit is your sport, you definitely have to practice some technically difficult movements such as snatching, done over and over again under fatigue. Some may argue that is unsafe, my question is, is it any more dangerous than football?
Since we have determined CrossFit is a sport, we should be comparing the danger of it to that of other sports, not the danger of walking on a treadmill at L.A. Fitness for 30 minutes. Clearly, it has been well documented the dangers of playing football long term. The constant collisions seem to appear dangerous for head trauma, and in some cases cause CTE. However, it is not just football. Soccer is dangerous, as well. While I was at NC State, I saw at least five different girls on our women’s team have ACL surgeries. The point is, every sport has risks, and therefore it shouldn’t be a shock when someone doing CrossFit as a sport sustains an injury.
Finally, I just want to touch on training volume and its connection to this topic. You don’t practice soccer or football six days a week. You may work on skills relating to a particular part of your sport, but you don’t go out and play a full game six times a week. Even practice is often times pretty easy, especially in season. In the same way, don’t practice CrossFit that many times, either. Work on specific skills if you want to compete. Spend a day doing only Olympic lifting. Spend another working on gymnastic skills (we all need more of those), or maybe a day working on your engine with endurance work running, rowing, biking, or swimming. Do some of these instead of WODing every day, and I all but guarantee you will feel healthier, move better, and actually improve your CrossFitting.