Is CrossFit harmful?

Before starting this sport, it is easy to think that it is very dangerous because it seems very harmful. This preconceived notion is common but wrong.

It is curious how it is normalized that a soccer player has meniscus surgery or a cyclist falls in a platoon, but CrossFit injuries have a very bad reputation.

Stigmatizing CrossFit because of the risk of injury is not justified because there will always be a percentage of risk of injury in any sport we practice and the more professional we make it.

But if you give me a few minutes to read, I will explain the studies on this subject in detail so that you will not be afraid.

CrossFit injuries vs. other sports

Several studies confirm that CrossFit is not a sport that presents a higher risk of injury than other sports.

In 2013, a study was published on the "nature and prevalence of injuries during CrossFit training". You can see how it concludes that the injury rate is estimated at 3.1% per 1,000 hours of training.. And only 7% of those are considered serious and require surgery.

To put us in perspective, the study places CrossFit on the same risk level as sports such as weightlifting or gymnastics. CrossFit combines these modalities, so it makes sense that the number of incidents would be similar. 

Compared to other sports mentioned in the study, the injury rate is lower than contact sports such as rugby, football or running.

crossfit injury study

We also have this latest study of 2018 in which they followed CrossFit practitioners for 4 years and the conclusions are very similar.

On the other hand, we must remember that training to win the CrossFit Games is not the same as training to stay in shape. A professional athlete in any sport will always have a higher chance of injury than an amateur.

Nor should we forget that a sedentary lifestyle is undoubtedly the most harmful practice in the long term..

How to avoid injuries

Studies show that injuries are more common when there is no supervision. This means that when we are left alone, we start to make things up and increase our chances of getting hurt.

  • Classroom Training: the coach is prepared to conduct the class in a safe manner. He will teach you how to do the movements, supervise you and guide you to adapt the intensity of the training to your level.
  • If you like to train on your own, never underestimate technique. The best athletes in history don't stop working on their technique, even after years of experience. Therefore, CrossFit practitioners should focus on improving their technique. Without technique, we will not reach our maximum, we will not reach our full potential.
  • Don't skip the warm-up: In class, warming up is a combination of exercises designed to increase body temperature and other more specific exercises depending on the day's training. This part is important, even if you don't think so. In addition to talking with your partner, do the warm-up for the session.
  • Cycle work: More is not always better. The box program is designed to periodize training sessions. It alternates high intensity weeks with recovery weeks to avoid overtraining.

Most frequent injuries

Despite what we have said, the risk of injury is not zero, because when we train, we put stress on our body. This must be managed by creating a positive adaptation, so if there is no initial stimulus, there will be no progress.

We do not seek to avoid training, but to ensure that the load is correct..

The most frequent lesions were found in the shoulders (39%), back (36%) and knees (15%).

crossfit injuries pdf
Photo by @fittestpics

Why do people get injured doing CrossFit?

I always say that it is not CrossFit that is harmful, it is the people that are harmful. And let me explain.

We all know the profile of a highly motivated person, someone that has high expectations of herself, is very demanding, and has almost surrealistic goals:

  • Maybe because of the time frame in which they want to achieve them,
  • due to the high volume of work required,
  • or simply because the goal is unfounded.

Taken to the extreme, this approach to training can easily lead to injury in the gym, running, yoga, or any other sport.

The desire to be stronger, to be faster, to be better... makes some people do senseless things.

I have seen partners complain about discomfort while doing an exercise and increase the weight on the bar for the next round.

But is this because of CrossFit? hmmmm... rather not, but because of the inconsistency of the decision that person makes. This behavior is not representative of the majority of people who do this sport, as you can see in the study we analyzed.


If you are a person who trains consistently and at an amateur level, you don't have to worry, as you won't get injured

I started CrossFit in 2014 and have only had one back injury that I was able to correct with my osteopath. It was important to analyze the reason for the injury, we identified a bad technique in my jerk and corrected it.

At that time, I was training quite a bit. My schedule Monday through Friday included 5 wods + 2 hours of strength.

I also did a few days of climbing and yoga on the side. These are just assumptions, but surely if I had trained 3 days a week, even if my technique was not perfect, I probably would not have been injured or would have had to accumulate more training hours.

By this I mean that technique is very important, but that training volume is also a critical factor when it comes to injury risk.