How do you know if somebody does CrossFit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, we’ll admit: it’s impossible to deny CrossFit’s stranglehold on the fitness industry.
Millions of people lace up their Reebok Nanos for a WOD every single year. But, to the surprise of probably no one, despite its “functional training” vibe, CrossFit isn’t exactly injury-free.
These 25 CrossFit injury statistics only add more fuel to the anti-CrossFit fire … or convince you that CrossFit is the greatest thing since whole-wheat, grain-free, 100-calorie bread.
Percentage Of Crossfitters Experiencing Injuries
- 73.5% of CrossFitters will suffer an injury while training.
- Of 3,049 CrossFit athletes surveyed, 30.5% reported an injury in the last year.
- In the previous six months, 19.4% of CrossFit athletes became injured.
Why Do So Many CrossFitters Get Hurt?
No offense, but have you seen the CrossFit Games, a local CrossFit competition, or even a regular ‘ol workout of the day (WOD)? There’s a laundry list of issues with this so-called “sport”:
Little Emphasis on Form
Before you grab your pitchfork, we know that many CrossFit coaches correct improper form, and there are some rules and standards for moves, as seen in the rules for 2011 regionals.
CrossFit’s (probably torn) Achilles heel is its speed factor.
Take AMRAP (as many reps as possible) sessions, for example. CrossFitters perform as many reps or rounds as possible in a set time.
Meanwhile, WODs (or workout of the days) are often for time; complete the entire workout as fast as possible to secure a lightning-fast time.
Some CrossFitters will sacrifice any glimmer of proper form, twist their spines into pretzels, or turn a simple exercise like a muscle-up into a kipping monstrosity to come out on top.
The Risk of Overtraining
The speed and intensity of CrossFit workouts leave many athletes falling on the floor, gasping for air. Each WOD also delivers a full-body beating that many sign up for five times per week.
This alone deprives the muscles, bones, and joints of the rest they need to repair between workouts. Of course, it also increases the odds of developing a chronic or severe injury.
The high-speed workouts, cranked-up intensity, heavyweights, and training past the point of fatigue can quickly become a recipe for disaster, resulting in injuries like:
- Dislocated shoulders
- Bulging discs
- Broken bones
- Split foreheads and shins
- Torn muscles and tendons
Of course, not all CrossFit athletes intentionally cut corners with half-ass reps.
In many cases, the intensity and volume of a CrossFit session leave athletes weak and exhausted, losing form and increasing the risk of injury as each workout drags on.
(Research from 2019 also blamed CrossFit for 11 cases of rhabdomyolysis, averaging a 2.9-day hospital stay. This muscle-destroying condition can cause permanent damage to the kidneys.)
Note: Right off the bat, we’ll tell you that CrossFit’s injury rates are similar to that of other sports. However, it’s the injury trends that sound the alarm bells.
Studies Reveal Low Injury Rates Per 1000 Training Hours
- CrossFit athletes average 3.1 injuries per 1,000 hours of training.
- CrossFit-related injuries were more common in those training the fewest hours per week vs. those training the most (0.27 vs. 0.74 injuries per 1,000 hours).
- Of 386 athletes interviewed, the CrossFit injury rate stood at 2.4 per 1,000 hours.
- Additional research puts CrossFit’s per-1,000-training-hours injury rate at 3.24.
- Another study of 50 CrossFitters settled on 2.3 injuries per 1,000 training hours.
- 2.1 injuries were reported per 1,000 hours of CrossFit training.
Putting These Injury Rates In Perspective
Thinking of weight lifting injury rates in thousands of training hours defeats the point. (It’s like calculating the distance to the gas station using “the length of iPhone 12s lying end-to-end” instead of miles.)
What do these CrossFit statistics really mean for those who eat, sleep, and breathe this training style?
Here are a few basic facts to keep in mind: 1,000 hours equals 41 ⅔ days, the average CrossFit class lasts an hour, and most CrossFitters enter the box five times per week.
It’ll be three years & 308 days until you log 1,000 hours at this rate.
If we consider 2.3 injuries per 1,000 hours the “norm,” that’s about one injury every 610 days — or every one year and 245 odd-days. Not too shabby, huh?
But the concern arises when we think about this:
Many Crossfit Injuries Are Chronic & Nagging
Tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, lower back pain, and plantar fasciitis — to name a few — aren’t one-and-done injuries.
On top of nursing the initial injury, flare-ups are common, healing can take 4–6 weeks and even require physical therapy or surgery, and common WOD exercises could become painful.
Many Involve the Major Joints
Minor CrossFit injuries, such as finger sprains or shin scrapes (damn box jumps), are possible to power through.
But, in a study of 84 reported CrossFit injuries, more than half (50/84) affected the shoulders, lower back, knees, or hips.
(Good luck completing your WOD when you’re hunched over in agony or can’t lift your arm above shoulder level.)
No Single Exercise Is To Blame
That same study also couldn’t settle on a single “dangerous” style of exercise common in CrossFit WODs.
Powerlifting was most likely to cause lower back and knee injuries, Olympic lifts and gymnastics exercises led to shoulder injuries, and the lower leg became injured more often with endurance.
Those 2.3 injuries could impact every CrossFit workout for the next three months or longer, and there’s no telling how severe it’ll be or how long you’ll have to nurse yourself back to health.
Who Is More Likely to Be Injured?
10. Researchers have yet to discover a definitive link between CrossFit injuries and height, age, weight, gender, age, or participation in other athletic activities.
- CrossFit injury rates were about even for men and women at both minimum and maximum training hours.
- In a study of 486 CrossFit athletes, 19% suffered injuries, with injury rates in men being more common.
- CrossFitters who compete and record more training hours per week are more likely to suffer injuries than less-competitive athletes (40% vs. 19%).
- Competitive CrossFit athletes were five times more likely to report injuries, and 82% of those practicing CrossFit for at least a year became injured.
- More in-depth research shows that less experienced CrossFitters may have a higher risk of injury, reporting up to 1.3 injuries per 1,000 hours vs. 0.54 of competitive athletes.
Survey Says, “Who the Hell Knows!”
Men are more likely to suffer an injury at the hands of CrossFit than women. Wait, no, women have a greater risk. Newbies are injury-prone. But, hold on, so are competitive CrossFitters.
(Talk about Schrodinger’s CrossFit injury …)
While all four of these things can’t possibly be true at once, they also make sense on their own.
- Female CrossFitters are more likely to ask for assistance from their coach and choose more realistic weights.
- Male athletes find inspiration in CrossFit’s self-challenge, social recognition, and sense of competition; this arrogance opens the door to incorrect form and overtraining.
- Competitive CrossFitters, like Annie Thorisdottir and Matt Fraser, sometimes train 2–3 hours per day, five days per week. More time training and less rest boost the odds of suffering a CrossFit injury.
- Newbies jumping right into their first WOD are practically begging to blow out their back or rupture an Achilles before their coach has the chance to say something cliche like, “Leave your ego at the door.”
We hate to be buzzkills, but it’s not a battle of the sexes or a newbie vs. pro debate.
Carelessness, bad technique, cockiness, and pushing the body well beyond what it can realistically handle are CrossFit’s most likely injury-causing culprits.
Common Injuries Among CrossFitters
- Those training 3–5 days per week are most likely to suffer CrossFit injuries, with injuries to the wrists (11%), elbows (12%), knees (15%), back (36%), and shoulders (39%) being most common.
- Of 411 CrossFitters polled, injuries were most common in the shoulders (46.41%), lower back (38.28%), and hips (9.09%).
- Another survey of 486 CrossFit athletes labeled the shoulders, lower back, and knee as the most injury-prone.
Most Injuries Are Not Severe
- Only 7% of CrossFit injuries required surgery to fix, reverse, or heal.
- A study of 97 CrossFit-related injuries reported a much lower 1% surgery rate.
The Most Dangerous CrossFit Exercises
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that CrossFit’s signature kipping pull-up looks more like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man at a used car lot than a real dead-hang pull-up.
Now, CrossFit has quite a few cringe-worthy exercises that, if nothing else, make for a hilarious CrossFit fail YouTube montage. But these CF exercises are among the riskiest:
|Exercise Name||What Makes It Potentially Dangerous?|
|Box Jumps||The “rebounding” phase puts enormous pressure on the Achilles tendon and scraped shins may result from failed jumps|
|Sumo Deadlift High Pulls||The high elbow position and awkward form put athletes at risk for shoulder impingement|
|Snatches||The improper form puts unnatural strain on the rotator cuffs, especially at high volumes|
|Kipping Pull-Ups||The fast-paced flailing motion puts excess strain on the shoulders|
|Handstand Push-Ups||Inability to remain balanced increases the risk of a concussion, neck, or back injury.|
To be clear: most CrossFit exercises — a combination of Olympic lifts, agility training, functional fitness, and more — are 100% safe with proper form, resistance, and rest.
CrossFit typically becomes dangerous when fatigue and form are ignored. Or when exercises like those above make their debut in the day’s workout.
How to CrossFit Safely
Every sport and physical activity comes with injury risks, including stereotypically “tamer” sports like badminton, speed walking, and archery.
So how do you hop aboard the CrossFit craze without getting hurt? Here are a few tips to add to your training arsenal:
- Start Slow. CrossFit trainers undergo in-depth training to receive their coaching certification. Ask your coach for technique pointers and perform exercise modifications until you master the real thing. Begin with 2–3 sessions per week.
- Read Your Body. Many CrossFitters train in a 3-day-on-1-day-off pattern. However, if you’re too sore to walk or crawl out of bed, it’s okay to change the schedule. Give your body an extra day to recover before stepping into the box again.
- Keep Your Ego In-Check. WODs can be competitive, but the entire purpose of CrossFit is to discover your true potential. Proper form and pauses may add a few seconds to your time. Yet, that’s much better than a painful knee or elbow injury.
- Remember Progressive Overload. There’s no “high” quite like setting a new PR on the snatch, clean, or squat. But don’t add weight to the bar until you can complete full reps without wobbling or cheating.
- Focus On Being Better Than Last Time. Progress is progress, no matter how small. Even if you fall short of your Murph or Jackie goals, dropping seconds from your previous PR is still progress.
Of course, a pair of CrossFit training shoes, a nylon belt, weightlifting gloves, and wrist straps can help maximize each workout.
CrossFit vs Other Sports
- CrossFit injury rates are similar to those seen in artistic gymnastics, standard weightlifting, and Olympic weightlifting.
- Compared to weightlifters, CrossFitters are 1.3x more likely to experience injuries and 1.86x more likely to pursue medical care.
- Although CrossFit’s 19.4% injury rate sounds high, it’s still lower than the injury rates for other sports (20–50%).
- Injury rates are higher in Strongman, powerlifting, and weightlifting for both acute (26–72%) and chronic (25–50%) injuries.
- CrossFit’s 2.1–3.1 injuries per 1,000 hours are reportedly lower than those in Strongman and powerlifting events.
Injury Rates Per 1,000 Training Hours: CrossFit vs. …
CrossFit’s injury rates are relatively low compared to other similar sports, though chronic and nagging injuries aren’t exactly rare in the box.
But how does CrossFit’s injury rate compare to other sports? Below are the results of a 2004 study that analyzed that very thing:
|Sport||Injury Rate (Per 1,000 Hours)|
Pound for pound, CrossFit’s per-1,000-hour injury rate is almost similar to that of running, weight training, horse riding, and gymnastics.
Do CrossFitters Get Injured More?
CrossFitters do get injured more when compared to weightlifters, with 1.3x greater odds of suffering an injury.
One study found that 19.4% of CrossFitters became injured in the last six months. CrossFitters practicing proper form and not training past exhaustion are less likely to suffer injury.
What Percentage Of Crossfitters Get Injured?
Approximately one-third of CrossFitters get injured, according to a 2020 study.
The results of that same study revealed that advanced CrossFitters, males, those with 3+ years of training experience, and athletes training 11+ hours per week were at the highest risk.
CrossFit can be an incredible physical outlet for former athletes and complete newbies … with the proper approach and safety precautions.
Read your body, “leave your ego at the door” (had to say it), put form ahead of speed, and rely on the resources available to you (AKA: your certified CrossFit coach).