Is CrossFit Safe?

It’s taken the fitness industry by storm: CrossFit. It’s developed an almost cult-like following, and for some good reasons. The variable, unpredictable workouts test total body fitness and muscular endurance. And CrossFit has helped countless people achieve their own personal fitness and/or weight loss goals.

These glowing benefits all appeared as part of a recent 60 Minutes segment entitled, “The King of CrossFit,” which profiled its creator, Greg Glassman, and showcased the rise of the sport.


Now, I use the term “showcase” for a specific reason. The segment has attracted some attention for portraying a skewed story, showing all the great things about CrossFit and little in the way of drawbacks. These glaring omissions were included in a recent Forbes article, “Is CrossFit Safe: What ’60 Minutes’ Didn’t Tell You.”

Now, I’ll admit, I’m a supporter of some aspects of CrossFit-style training. The variability is beneficial, as is the intensity (to a point and in the right doses). Most importantly though, the sharp attention to mobility and technique underlies many CrossFit practices. Sadly, this does tend to get swept under the rug in the hopes of achieving a certain number of reps within a given time period. Any workout with time as a constraint will always have people compromise on technique and form for the sake of just doing the reps.

To this point, the Forbes article rightly raises questions about the high rate of injuries among CrossFitters. Based on recent research, CrossFitters will acquire an injury more often than runners, which is saying something because some estimates point to more than half of runners sustaining an injury in any given year.

Anyway, the article quotes a Vox posting, which I think is worth repeating:

“This 2013 study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, was designed to look at the frequency of injury in CrossFit athletes during routine training. Of the 132 people who responded to the survey, 97 (or nearly three-quarters) reported getting hurt during CrossFit training, and most injuries involved the shoulders and spine. These respondents reported a total of 186 injuries; nine led to surgeries.”

The entire Forbes article is worth a read, so I won’t repeat everything that’s already been said. But, I will add this major concern. Despite the serious reservations about CrossFit and the potential for injury and other negative impacts on your health, it’s now attracting kids as young as 12. As I said already, there are a lot of benefits with CrossFit. But it also comes with some serious risks. We need to carefully consider them, not just for ourselves, but for our kids as well.


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