CrossFit Injuries: Should You Worry About The Risk?

If you keep up with fitness news, you may have noticed that CrossFit has been caught in a fierce debate between advocates and critics once again. This was after celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels voiced her issues with CrossFit in a video for SHAPE. In particular, she had concerns about kipping — a movement which is common in CrossFit.

"It’s when you use momentum by bucking or jerking your hips," she explained, noting that many people use it to perform pull-ups or toes to bar. Michaels believed that using momentum to do a repetition is not only "cheating," but could also increase the risk of injury. 

"One can argue that with a good base of athleticism and proper form, these injuries can be avoided. But I say the forces on the shoulder and lower spine are extremely high during kipping movements, so the risk is there for even seasoned athletes," she added.

The risk of injury is often brought up with regard to CrossFit — but is it prevalent enough to worry about? One recent study, published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, found that it was actually "relatively safe" compared to traditional training modalities.

According to the researchers, it appeared that the associated risk of injury was exaggerated by previous media reports. The key finding was that beginners and people who engage in CrossFit training less than three days per week have a greater risk of injuries.

"Keeping in mind the ‘constantly varied’ nature of CrossFit training, it makes sense that those with the least experience may be more prone to injuries as a result of strength and/or flexibility issues that may hinder their ability to complete some of the more basic exercises," said study co-author Yuri Feito, an associate professor of exercise science at Kennesaw State University.

It is important to avoid pushing your body beyond limits, especially if you have less than a year of experience. While CrossFit workouts are not 100 percent safe, the same applies to nearly any effective fitness program. The risk is, of course, higher when you try to perform the activity by watching videos online.

There is always the possibility of poor form when it comes to social media "fitness gurus" who may not have formal training. Without having expert supervision around, you are likely to mimic the poor form and injure yourself. If your goal is general fitness, look for a good CrossFit gym by attending free introductory classes. You may speak to other members and also observe the coach and his or her teaching abilities. 

"If there’s no structure to the class and it’s disorderly, then that’s a safety problem," Ian Creighton, general manager and coach at BRICK New York, told Men's Health. "That’s a red flag."