Crossfit might be one of the most popular and controversial exercise regimes out there at the moment, and there is a lack of middle ground between fierce detractors and loyal devotees. Crossfit has escaped from a recent study without significant injury to its reputation.
One of the most voiced criticisms of Crossfit is the potential for injury. The naysayers argue that the hugely competitive culture and the lack of formal instruction the Crossfit organisation requires of its trainers encourages overexertion and poor technique, both of which can result in devastating injuries.
This includes a potentially fatal condition called rhabdomyolysis, which may be caused by severe overexertion, and literally results in the muscles breaking down or "melting". In the minds of many, rhabdomyolysis is synonymous with Crossfit, due in part to the way the organisation chose to leverage the fallout from a number of high profile cases of this injury within the community.
A recent paper sought to end this speculation by collecting some factual data about injury from Crossfit participants. This resulted in a small study which placed Crossfit's injury rate at a lifetime rate of 73.5%, or 3.1 injuries per 1000 hours of training. This may sound high but these figures place Crossfit on par with similar activities like powerlifting, and gymnastics, and lower than contact sports such as Rugby Union. No cases of rhabdomyolysis were reported in this study.
The study reported that the majority of injuries concerned the shoulders and spine, and that injury required surgical intervention in 7% of cases. This paper claims to be the first ever study into Crossfit related injuries and opens the door to larger studies, and further research into areas like the relative severity of Crossfit injuries compared to other sports.
It's great that we now have a few facts to inject into the Crossfit debate!
Hak PT, Hodzovic E, Hickey B. The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Nov 22.