Believe it or not, somehow, working out became an entirely new sport. For almost two full decades now, Crossfit has been everything from a fitness fad to a legitimate lifestyle sport. And in that time its popularity has often been matched with one glaring bruise, no pun intended: Crossfit athletes get injured A LOT. Serious and chronic injuries are so frequent in what’s mostly an amateur sport that the general consensus has grown to be that somehow it’s intrinsically dangerous.
It that actually true, though? Is Crossfit itself more dangerous or is it just something about the culture that leads its athletes to suffer more injuries (seemingly) than other sports?
The group Sciences of Sport set out to conduct an actual scientific study to answer this question earlier this year. They consulted medical databases of 251 studies with samples of anywhere from 10 to just under 1,400 individuals. They researched the benefits of Crossfit in one category and those reporting injuries in another category. Here’s what they found:
In one sample, nearly one out of every five Crossfit athletes suffer an injury during training that then prevented them from further training, working, or competing afterward. They found that one injury multiplied the chances of repeating the same injury by 3.75 times. Their suggestion for reducing the rate of injuries was simply reducing running distances and increasing resistance training. Sounds simple, right? Well, another 2018 study/sample examined by Sciences of Sport found that more than 50 percent of athletes had sustained injuries in the past year while 15 percent endured two or more injuries. What they found was that 58 percent of those injuries were a result of simple overuse. That statistical model told researchers that the duration of practice was the most common determiner of an injury. If you practiced the sport for less than six months, you were most likely to sustain an injury while more experienced athletes were less likely to suffer injuries. Other segments of the Science of Sport study pointed out that practitioners’ body fat percentages dropped by an average of 3.7% over an average of 10 weeks. So while new practitioners were most likely to have injuries, there were obvious physiological benefits early on.
In the end, Sciences of Sport concluded that Crossfit injuries are definitely pretty common, but not because the sport itself is more dangerous than others. The fact that it’s typically done at a high intensity doesn’t even make its athletes more likely to suffer injuries. It turns out professional coaching, learning at an officially affiliated box (gym), and gaining experience over time were the greatest deterrents from injury. In layman’s terms, new Crossfit athletes are the most likely to get injured and reinjured. Once those athletes reach a certain level of experience and fitness as a result of practicing, they become less and less likely to be at risk. Conclusion? According to Sciences of Sport, Crossfit activities aren’t what make Crossfit so dangerous, inexperience is.