The 5 Most Common CrossFit Injuries We See and Treat
Many CrossFit athletes, even those who do not compete at the level of the CrossFit Games, will eventually experience an injury due to some aspect of their training. The fact remains that not everyone can have 100% perfect form 100% of the time. There is no such thing as a perfect athlete.
In March 2012 Jerred Moon, founder of End of Three Fitness, posted an article for his website titled, “Is CrossFit Injury Ridden?” To begin with, he drew attention to three well-known CrossFit Games athletes (Mikko Salo, Sam Briggs and Graham Holmberg) and pointed out that all three were battling knee injuries. Two of the athletes had injuries severe enough to keep them out of the 2012 CrossFit Games. While there is example after example of athletic injuries in the sport, you don’t have to be a victim!
In general, there seem to be five main areas that CrossFit athletes have a tendency to injure: lower back, knees, wrists, shoulders and elbows. The Doctors at Milton Chiropractic & Massage treat lots of CrossFit athletes suffering from these types of injuries.
1) Lower Back
An injury to the lower back should come as no surprise to most CrossFit athletes. When you are lifting such heavy weights again and again, all it takes is one lift with bad form and weak abdominal muscles to feel the sharp jab of pain. Whether it’s from a strain, herniated disc, your sciatica flaring up or a myriad of other reasons, lower back pain should not be ignored.
Athlete or not, some Chiropractors place the numbers as high as 80% when talking of adults with back problems. If you consider what the lower back supports, it should come as no surprise why it is so injury prone. It supports everything from the spine to the top of your head, which is why keeping your core muscles control and correct movement patterns is so important. The lower back already has enough to support without adding any unnecessary body weight into the mix.
The knee is one of the largest joints in our bodies. Because of this, we are highly dependent on its functionality. All it takes is a knee injury to reinforce this dependence! Our knees are made up of bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles, joints, arteries, veins…the list goes on and on. It is able to support up to 8 times our body weight. Even if you are a small person that’s a lot of pressure on such a small part of your body!
If the knee is so important, then why does it seem so easy to injure? First, we must understand that you can’t isolate the knee. It’s intricately connected to the pelvis, hip, upper and lower legs, ankles and feet. It’s literally a powerhouse that provides support for the entire body. Many times knee injuries are simply manifestations of other areas of weakness that fail to support the knee.
The wrist is an area of the body that is often overlooked by most athletes. In the age of technology, however, taking care of the wrist could not be more important. Mobility and strength of the wrist is important whether you are lifting a Clean and Jerk or typing an email at work. Too many people wrongly assume that the soreness that comes from typing, or swiping their tablet screens is simply par for the course.
The root causes of wrist injury are mobility and flexibility. If you type the phrase “anatomy of the wrist” into Google, you might be surprised at what you find. It’s an intricate web of tendons, ligaments and bones, working at incredible levels of flexibility to provide daily function. For CrossFit athletes, lifting too much too soon (this includes body weight) can injure a wrist that is not flexible and strong enough to take the weight.
The final two areas, the shoulder and elbow, seem to make up the majority of CrossFit injuries. It’s interesting that both are joints and both are essential to gaining full range of motion in the Olympic lifts that create the framework for CrossFit training.
By far, shoulder injuries seem to be the most common injury for CrossFit athletes and thus it deserves a lot of time and attention to make sure that you understand what is going on when the shoulder moves.
As far as bones, the shoulder is made up of two: the humerus and the scapula (or shoulder blade). The shoulder joint is softly cushioned and stabilized with a thick bed of cartilage that protects the bones as they move around in a ball and socket joint. As the joint itself is rather shallow and weak, it must be properly cared for.
The shoulder blade is home to four smaller muscles that fuse together and make what is referred to as the rotator cuff. If you were to look at the rotator cuff you would see a neat little coming together of the bones, muscles and tendons to provide support and strength for your shoulder. A good, healthy shoulder is one that has a high degree of strength as well as a full range of motion. Some people have strong shoulder muscles. Others have great flexibility. The ideal is to pair the two.
It’s not uncommon to see athletes walking through the gym, rotating one shoulder and vigorously massaging the muscles with the other hand. It often starts as a weakness or a tweak that creeps up when doing overhead lifts or an extended amount of pull-ups that the weakness and fatigue will appear. Shoulder injuries should NOT be taken lightly. There is too much at stake to let the injuries go untreated. Get help at Milton Chiropractic & Massage!
Of all the most common CrossFit injuries, perhaps the one that might surprise someone is an elbow injury. For most CrossFit athletes, elbow pains appear when you are in the front rack position, preparing for a lift such as front squats, power cleans or full cleans. Most often, elbow damage can from improper positioning of the bar as well as over tension.
Elbow injuries can be tricky because, while it may be easy to push through the pain in other areas, the elbow is strategically placed to make lifting almost impossible without full range of (painless) motion. Considering there are over twenty muscles that make up the elbow joint, it is a small joint that provides the pathway for skilled, precise movement.
For many athletes, elbow pain is associated with the term “tennis below” and simply comes from overusing the muscles in the elbow. Straining the muscles around the elbow (think biceps and triceps) can also cause an injury to the elbow. Straining any of these muscles can lead to an extended period of discomfort in your elbow. It’s best to sit out the injury and give your body time to heal.
With all of this risk of injury, it might seem that CrossFit has a greater tendency for harm than other forms of exercise or sport. Perhaps this is true with any sport. Runners are at a higher risk for shin splints. Baseball players will undoubtedly experience tennis elbow. Has anyone ever met an avid basketball player that didn’t sprain his or her ankle? Even bowling fanatics will likely develop tendonitis.
While all of these injuries can be prevented, there is no 100% foolproof training plan that guarantees health and safety. Like any extreme sport, caution and common sense go a long way, especially in CrossFit!
The Chiropractors at Milton Chiropractic & Massage focus on resolving a variety of acute and chronic spine-related conditions that are common among CrossFitters. We focus not only on pain relief, but also address the underlying causes such as muscular imbalances, biomechanical deficiencies, improper lifting techniques, and improper conditioning. If you are looking to recover from a specific injury or are just looking to achieve optimal health and performance, come in and see us at Milton Chiropractic & Massage located in the downtown Crabapple/Milton area.