With the growth of CrossFit and the continued encouragement for the general public to move more, one always has to take balance into account.
Many of the functional movements executed in CrossFit – from the Olympic and power lifts to gymnastics, plyometrics and mono-structural exercises – require the use of the shoulders and legs, including the hip, knee and ankle joints. With all these joints involved all of the time, overuse injuries are not uncommon.
However, many critics of CrossFit are quick to blame the prevalence of injuries inside the box on CrossFit programming. The problem with this is that people often make generalisations based on isolated incidents, or they point fingers without evidence. Worse still is that the public listens without doing their own investigation.
The truth is that many of the injuries were there before the athlete started CrossFit or were attained outside of the box while engaging in other forms of exercise or sport. Yes, you heard me, CrossFit is often not the cause of common injuries. It merely exposes underlying weaknesses or pre-existing injuries, along with any cumulative damage that has been done since the injury occurred.
Granted, when you push physical boundaries something is likely to give way. But that is true of any sport, not just CrossFit. However, by taking precautions beforehand you can lessen the risk of these incidents. That’s why it is essential that you first enquire and investigate a CrossFit box and the background, qualifications and experience of its coaches. It is in the hands of under-qualified and inexperienced coaches where the myth of the injurious nature of CrossFit has been perpetuated. Boxes with suitably qualified, experienced coaches ensure every effort is made to first correct imbalances or weaknesses or fully rehabilitate previous injuries. This is done by increasing range of motion and the stability of joints, and the important complexes of the body. Also, one of the many philosophies of CrossFit is that the initiation of any movement happens from “core to extremity”. This is because the stronger the core muscles, the better off the CrossFitter will be at any movement. Any box that fails to first address this area among beginners is failing to prepare them adequately for the rigours of this type of training. Many of the functional and gymnastic exercises executed in CrossFit also require a reasonable range of motion in the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrist joints. Without it, CrossFitters often get injured trying to complete these exercises.
Modern life and societal norms also mean that many who walk into a CrossFit box are front dominant because everything they do overworks the muscles at the front of their bodies. Very few people focus on their posterior chain because they can’t see it. This happens when the majority of people are more concerned with developing six packs and big biceps and chests, rather than functional strength. People also spend hours hunched over their computers at their workstations and at home. All these factors mean that the average individual will battle with the movements of CrossFit because they don’t have sufficient core strength, the correct range of motion or the balance in their musculature. They then let ego and pride get in the way and overload these bodies, often using improper technique. And there are, unfortunately, CrossFit coaches who let them do so. It is when this scenario plays out in CrossFit boxes that most injuries occur. To avoid these issues, CrossFitters need to spend more time on core training and joint mobility and maintenance. There are a multitude of mobilising exercises and stretches that people can do to increase their range of movement. If your coach is properly qualified, they will be able to assist you with exercises that include rollers, therabands, lacrosse balls, Voodoo bands, physio balls and other tools. Yoga, Pilates, and stretch classes are also great methods to get muscles and joints moving correctly. The problem is these techniques and methods aren’t very exciting so they’re done begrudgingly at first and are soon skipped over completely. It is only when someone sustains an injury that they realise the importance of these fundamental requirements and start to dedicate more time to them. So make an effort now. In doing so you’ll move better and will reduce your risk of injury.