It is a common preconception that CrossFit can lead to a higher number of injuries than other sports. But is this actually true?
Luckily there’s been some recent research that gives us more of an insight into the actual injury rates and the common causes of injury. We’ve decided to take a look and explain it further.
Three studies [1,2,3] looked into the number of injuries that CrossFit athletes obtain per 1,000 training hours. This highlighted an incidence rate between 2.1 and 3.1 injuries per 1,000 training hours across all three papers. Interestingly this is relatively insignificant compared to other recreational sports such as powerlifting or strongman events. The table below compares this data to other injury rates obtained in research within specific lifting sports.
Table from strengthandconditioning.com 
In comparison with general recreational sports, one study  found that running has an injury incidence rate of 7.7 in experienced runners and 17.8 in novice runners. This is significantly higher than CrossFit, yet is never really mentioned as a ‘dangerous’ activity.
But why do CrossFit injuries occur?
Obviously, we can’t completely avoid injuries, so what are the most common causes of injury to CrossFit Athletes?
After reviewing several studies, it is clear that there are several factors contributing to CrossFit injuries occurring. These include:
The greater the body mass, the more likely an injury to occur.
Studies show that the taller the athlete and the greater the mass then the more injuries occur. One theory is that the greater the height and the greater the mass, then the greater the biomechanical load on the muscles and joints. However, these theories didn’t look into the levels of baseline strength associated with these athletes. They may be new to the sport and at the start of their CrossFit journey aiming to get leaner, skewing the results.
Competitors are more likely to incur an injury compared to casual athletes.
This aspect may seem pretty self-explanatory, but athletes looking to compete are often working at higher intensities, training loads and looking to push themselves to their limit in order to improve. This increase in intensity and training load leads to a higher risk of injury.
Athlete’s with a greater training load are more likely to get injured.
Following on from the fact above, sudden increases in training volume significantly increases our risk of injury. For example, a competitor may have a competition coming up therefore increases their training load to significantly greater than what the body has previously worked at and it can’t cope. Therefore, the athlete gets injured.
Most athletes are aware of this and set a training program that gradually increases their load as their body adapts. However, it’s more common to forget about the types of training that we do. For example, if an athlete is learning a new skill, they tend to become focused on training that movement or aspect of the body – increasing their training load in that area. Handstand push ups are a great example. Athletes are keen to learn so practice more, leading to an increase in forces placed through the wrist in wrist extension. The sudden increase in load often leads to an increase in pain or discomfort within the wrist.
However, this is normal in most sports and as long as your training program is monitored (by yourself, your coach or appropriate health professional) then this can be prevented.
CrossFit athletes in their first year of training are more likely to sustain an injury compared to experienced athletes.
Similar to above, when first starting out as a CrossFit athlete you are learning new techniques and exposing your body to new skills that it won’t have encountered previously. As long as it is done with caution and sensibly then no issues should occur. However, if overloaded through training loads, intensity or poor technique then injuries may occur.
A lack of consistency.
Evidence  shows that athletes who train less than 3 sessions per week have a higher risk of injury compared to those who train 4 or 5 sessions per week. This is due to the level of conditioning that you will have obtained and maintained through consistent loading. However, as explained above this needs to be gradually worked up to until your body can cope with the demands of the sessions.
Overall, the evidence shows that the notion of participating in CrossFit leads to high levels of injury, is in fact a misconception. The injury rates within the sport are similar if not less than most other sports. However, like many recreational sports there can be a risk of injury. But if you’re sensible, follow the basic principles of training, listen to your coach’s advice and are consistent with your training then these are few and far between.
1. Montalvo et al, 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5358031/
2. Moran et al, 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28085123
3. Hak et al, 2013: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24276294
4. Feito et al, 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6201188/
5. Videbaek et al, 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473093/
6. Strengthandconditioning.com: https://www.strengthandconditioningresearch.com/2014/07/08/injury-strength-sports/