Injuries In CrossFit

Yep, it’s about time I tackled this one. After all, injuries are probably the #1 reason CrossFit gets a bad rap. We’ve all been told by someone we know, “don’t do crossfit, you’ll get hurt.’’ But is it really true that CrossFit produces more injuries than other sports and training programs? And what is an injury? Are we talking nagging pain, or something more catastrophic/pathological? Are there causes of injury outside of training modality? My opinion, absolutely yes. And lastly, is there a way to reduce your risk of injury and pain. Let’s take a look.

First, we need to have a definition of what it is we’re talking about. When we say injury, we’re defining it as an injury serious enough to prevent someone from training, working, or competing in any way. In other words, we’re not talking about nagging pain that we all experience from time to time. If you polled 100 random people on the street about their occurrence of physical pain, a large percentage would answer yes, but does that necessarily mean they are injured…no. So, we need to understand that pain and injuries don’t always coincide.

Now to the real question, does CrossFit produce more injuries than other training modalities? From the research(1,2,3,4,5) we have, injuries rates in CrossFit are pretty much on par with powerlifting, weightlifting, gymnastics, and actually lower than track and field. But if that’s the truth, why do so many people talk about injuries in CrossFit? I think there are multiple answers.


  1. Far more people are doing high intensity exercise like CrossFit now vs 15-20 years ago. For every 1 person who experiences an injury in CrossFit, there are many others who workout everyday for years on end without experiencing injury. The squeaky wheels are getting the attention here. You’ll never hear from the ones who’ve been training for years without experiencing an injury, and these are the majority.
  2. Other fitness professionals began to lose a ton of revenue once CrossFit gained popularity because people were ditching their programs for CrossFit. I experienced this personally in the early days of CrossFit when fitness professionals I knew personally were bashing CrossFit online constantly without having any knowledge of what it actually was! If they were being honest with themselves and others, they were upset because their pockets were being threatened. This still happens today regularly.

With this in mind, what are the main causes of injury and can they be prevented? First, we must understand why they happen in the first place. I believe there are many causes. I’ll list some below.

  1. CrossFit as a Training Program vs CrossFit as a Sport.

There is a big difference between trying to develop your fitness and trying to win on the white board everyday. If you come to the gym with the mindset of ‘’compete everyday,’’ just know that your risk of injury will be higher because you will cut corners to win or push harder than you should on a given day, and it will eventually catch up with you at some point. We all have those days where it’s probably best to slow down, use loads we can manage safely, and focus on moving within our means.

2. What are your habits outside the gym?

This is a big one that so many people overlook. Underslept people are 1.7x more likely to get injured than those that are rested!  That’s massive. Skipping sleep to workout isn’t a winning strategy. This is also why I’m so big on cutting caffeine. But everytime I mention that to anybody I get the craziest responses, because almost everyone is addicted! If I told you, “I gotta have my cocaine to get through my day!” you’d think I was nuts. But this is what people do with caffeine, and we all think it’s normal because everyone else does it. It’s not normal to be addicted to a drug to get through the day!

What about nutritional habits? I constantly see people make poor choices nutritionally, with the rationale that because they got their workout in, they can go binge afterward. That’s not how this works. You can’t out-train a poor diet, and the risk of injury is higher if you’re not giving your body what it needs nutritionally. Just as you cannot eat a vegetable after consuming pizza/beer and finish net neutral, you cannot workout hard, then go eat like crap and be net neutral.

3. How well do you move?

Do you actively work to improve your technique and mobility? Few actually do. It goes without saying that this is important. However, I don’t typically see people take this one seriously UNTIL they’ve been injured. Maybe people need to learn for themselves the hard way. But the wise ones will see their movement limitations ahead of time and address them.


It’s important to note, not all coaches and CrossFit gyms are the same. Some pay attention to technique, recovery, and programming far more than others. So it’s important to find a coach that takes these concepts seriously and is qualified. But it’s also important to know that every form of exercise and training carries some risk. If you’re looking for 0% injury risk, better stay home on the couch.

I once asked a local sports therapist about which exercise/sport/fitness system brings him the most business. Without hesitation he immediately said back to me, “running, without question.” And, believe it or not, there is research showing higher numbers of injury rates in running. But we would never tell a runner to stop running because they got injured, so why does everyone do that with CrossFit? My guess, it almost always comes back to money…

I’ll wrap up my thoughts with an analogy. When I was growing up, my father was a mechanic for a sprint car racing team. These were very fast, high horsepower cars. He would travel on the weekends to different towns up and down California with hopes of winning the season. Before every race they had to make sure the car was tuned and ready to go. Any part of the engine, transmission, suspension, or chassis that wasn’t tuned could cost them the race because these cars were being pushed to their limits. In many ways our bodies are the same. If we want to push ourselves day in and day out, we have to be thinking about how we move, what we eat, how we sleep, and how we manage stress. So many people have such poor habits, that daily pain is an occurrence even without exercise! We all have the power to choose what kind of health we want. Fitness isn’t just about the gym. Let’s go beyond that guys.