CrossFit injuries might be common for some people because of the high intensity workouts and other factors, even for athletes who are already experienced in many of the movements.
Anyone who pays even a moderate amount of attention to fitness trends has already heard about CrossFit. For the uninitiated, CrossFit focuses on high intensity interval training with workouts that are often treated as sport.
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is an extremely popular strength and conditioning workout program that uses high intensity interval training and functional movement incorporating a range of disciplines like aerobics, Olympic-style weightlifting, and bodyweight exercises.
The Workout of the Day (WOD) in CrossFit generally falls into one of two categories:
- Finish a prescribed set of exercises in the least amount of time possible
- Perform as many repetitions of various exercises in a given set of time
Many CrossFit movements are based on the following:
- Olympic style weightlifts, such as deadlift, clean, clean and jerk, squats, presses, and snatches
- Cardiovascular activities, like running, biking, swimming, and rowing
- Gymnastic movements that can include, pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, handstands, and others
Many WODs are programmed so there is at least one of each style of movement in every single workout, and sometimes more than just one of each.
Because of the competitive nature of the program where people are encouraged to compete against themselves, beat their previous records, or compete against others, it’s not uncommon for athletes to push the bounds of their abilities and suffer from CrossFit injuries.
What are the Most Common CrossFit Injuries?
While CrossFit has certainly helped many people get into shape, build strength, muscle, and endurance, it has also developed an unsubstantiated reputation for causing injury.
There are many factors at play for this, including movements people are not accustomed to, an athlete’s propensity for pushing themselves too hard and too soon instead of scaling up as recommended, or using poor technique.
Overtraining symptoms may be another key factor that leads to CrossFit injuries for some people.
While injuries do happen, there is no reason to believe that CrossFit injuries occur at a greater rate than other sports or competitive routines. With that said, some injuries are more common than others.
Here are 9 of the Most Common CrossFit Injuries
1. Tennis Elbow
Tennis Elbow, also known as Lateral Epicondylitis, is a form of tendinitis that can cause inflammation or micro-tears in the soft tissues and muscles that connect the outside of the elbow to the forearm muscles.
Without treatment, tennis elbow symptoms can diminish a person’s range of motion, cause significant discomfort and pain, and lead to unwanted downtime.
2. Wrist Strain
Both Olympic weightlifting and gymnastic movements require a lot of wrist strength. Whether it’s handstands or the clean and jerk, the wrists come under an intense amount of strain.
Failing to warm up properly, attempting to do more than the wrists are currently capable of, or not giving the wrists enough rest time between workouts can all lead to painful symptoms and weakened wrists.
3. Achilles Tendonitis
As the largest tendon in the body, the Achilles runs down the back of the calf and connects to the heel bone. Tendonitis in the Achilles, or insertional achilles tendonitis, generally develops from partial tears in the soft tissue due to overtraining, especially when running and performing jumping movements.
Like other forms of tendinitis, pain in the beginning typically dissipates as an athlete warms-up, so they are likely to engage the Achilles even while it’s injured.
Left untreated, Achilles tendonitis can be extremely debilitating and in severe cases can even include a complete rupture or tear, which is very serious and painful.
4. Illiotibial (IT) Band Syndrome
The Illiotibial, or IT Band, runs alongside the outside of the leg, starting from the hip all the way down to the knee and shinbone. This band of soft-tissue and muscle is essential for almost every type of movement, from walking and running to stabilizing the knees and rotating the hips.
IT Band Syndrome can occur when the tissue becomes inflamed, tight, or bunched up, usually as a result of overtraining, poor exercise technique, and a lack of warm-up and cool down practices.
Left untreated, it’s likely to cause pain in the knee, cracking or popping in the knee joint, as well as discomfort and poor range of motion in the hip.
5. Jumper’s Knee
Jumper’s Knee is also referred to as patellar tendonitis, and is caused by either injury or inflammation of the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone.
Here again, overuse is a big factor with Jumper’s Knee, especially when it comes to CrossFit movements that include running, jumping, squatting and others. Micro-tears in the tendon weaken the tissue and cause swelling and pain ranging from mild to severe.
6. Rotator Cuff Injury to the Shoulder
Inside the shoulder, the rotator cuff and a group of muscles and tendons connect the upper arm and bone, the shoulder blade, and the collarbone, which allows the body to raise and rotate the arms.
Any tears or ruptures in the soft tissue can cause painful conditions, such as a rotator cuff injury or supraspinatus tendinitis, and diminish a person’s ability to raise their arm past a certain height.
There are many movements that require the arms to be raised over the head, from pull-ups to lifts like the press, which can lead to CrossFit injuries.
7. Lower Back Strain
The lower back can be particularly vulnerable to CrossFit injuries because of the many bending, lifting, and jumping movements, many of which are weighted.
Poor form, especially in Olympic weightlifting movements, is one of the primary causes of these injuries.
While poor form may be related to a lack of instruction or understanding of a particular movement, it can also come about when an athlete is tired and just trying to get through the workout without paying close attention to technique.
A hernia is caused when excessive stress is placed on abdominal muscles that actually push a portion of the intestines through the abdominal wall. While that might sound extreme, it’s a fairly common condition.
Most hernias are caused by attempting to lift weight that is simply too much, or the lift is made using poor technique. Heavy squats and deadlifts are two of the main culprits leading to this type of CrossFit injury.
9. Knee Strain
Unfortunately, a knee strain or pain in the knees is something that many athletes often try to ignore until it inhibits their mobility. In CrossFit, the amount of heavy lifting, jumping, and running places continued stress on the knees.
A knee strain or pain should not be discounted because it can be a signal that there is a more serious problem, such as a dislocation or a tear.
How to Prevent CrossFit Injuries
With any sport, including CrossFit, it’s important to start slow, even if there’s an unconscious pressure to keep up with more experienced athletes.
CrossFit involves many combinations of highly technical movements that can take time and practice to learn and perform safely.
Other ways to prevent a CrossFit injury can include:
- Take the time to warm-up (10 to 20 minutes) before jumping right into a WOD
- Don’t be afraid to scale down prescribed workouts to more manageable levels
- Substitute movements that may cause pain or discomfort for other movements
- Give your body adequate rest between workouts
- Try to avoid overtraining or overusing particular muscle groups
- Wear properly fitting shoes
- Use other types of support, such as wrist-straps, weight belts, or taping joints that need added support
- Take the time to properly cool down, stretch, and keep the body limber
Treatment Methods for CrossFit Injuries
As with any kind of injury, CrossFit injuries or otherwise, it’s important to see a doctor if there’s significant pain and discomfort.
This will usually involve a physical examination, a discussion of recent activity and possibly x-rays or an MRI for a look at any injured bones or soft tissue.
It’s important to listen to the body and give it time to rest and recover because getting back to intense activity too soon can prolong unwanted downtime.
Here are Effective Treatment Methods for Common CrossFit Injuries
1. The Rice Method for Treating CrossFit Injuries
The RICE Method involves Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation as a treatment approach for CrossFit injuries and is typically one of the first steps to healing soft-tissue or muscle pain.
RICE is a basic yet effective protocol that gives the body a break with rest and uses ice to reduce swelling and pain. A compression bandage will stabilize the injury and elevating the injured area above the heart will allow fluid to drain and decrease inflammation.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Pain Medications
Over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications or NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) should be used as directed to reduce pain and inflammation, while resting the injured area.
3. Topical Anti-Inflammatory Creams
Topical anti-inflammatory creams or patches can also help reduce pain and inflammation in overused or achy muscles and joints.
Popular generic topical anti-inflammatory medications include diclofenac and capsaicin, and these can be found in brand versions like Voltaren Arthritis Pain, Flector Patch, Ziclopro, and Capsinac.
Check with a doctor before using any topical creams and always read the warning labels for possible interactions.
4. Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy can be useful for healing and recovery from many types of CrossFit injuries. Physical therapists are trained in a wide range of disciplines and in addition to working with injuries, they can help athletes with stretching exercises and warm-up routines.
Physical therapist can also recommend appropriate gear for certain activities, improve technique, and suggest training regimens that will aid performance and lessen the chances of overtraining and overuse injuries.
5. EPAT / Shockwave Therapy for CrossFit Injuries
EPAT Therapy is formally known as Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology and is a non-invasive and painless method for treating and healing many types of pain and even CrossFit injuries.
EPAT is sometimes referred to as Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy, or simply Shockwave, because it produces pulsed pressure waves (shockwaves) directed at the injured area.
Shockwaves can be high or low-energy pressure waves that stimulate new cell growth, reduce inflammation, and increase blood flow to repair and heal soft tissue.
EPAT / Shockwave Therapy has shown to speed up recovery and healing for amateur and professional athletes so they can return to training sooner.
Professional sports teams have been using this advanced technology for years to heal players more quickly.
6. Gradually Return to Workouts
After recovering from any type of injury, make a gradual return to CrossFit training.
Many people have an impulse to rush back to the same workout intensity levels he or she maintained before injury, but it’s important to take it slow and gradually scale back up.
In severe cases of CrossFit injuries, being cleared medically by a physician or sports medicine doctor may also be necessary.
Most people don’t consider the possibility of developing an injury until after it occurs. Understanding how to prevent the most common CrossFit injuries can help avoid them before they happen.
If an injury arises, immediately take a break, incorporate some of the treatment methods outlined here, and see a doctor as soon as possible before it becomes more serious.