Founded by Greg Glassman, CrossFit is a fitness program that is popular around the world. Its participants include professional athletes, military personnel, and people simply looking to get in shape and improve their health. However, there are certainly some CrossFit dangers, including Rhabdo, a fatal condition that you need to be aware of.
The gruelling strength and endurance workouts are designed to push your body to its limits and beyond, all in an effort to make you the best athlete in the world. While there is nothing wrong with getting in shape and improving your overall health, some experts are wondering if CrossFit is actually the best method to use.
What CrossFit Doesn’t Tell You about the Dangers
This slightly disturbing cartoon is popping up on several websites associated with CrossFit, and the clownish figure has been named “Uncle Rhabdo.” Unlike many official and unofficial mascots, this is one that the founder of CrossFit doesn’t like to talk about. With sweat and blood pouring off the cartoonish clown and his kidney flopping on the floor, this is a mascot that no one wants to be associated with.
What is truly disturbing is not the actual image of the clown, but the fact that CrossFit founder Greg Glassman and most instructors are well aware of the potential dangers associated with these workouts. “Uncle Rhabdo” represents the side of CrossFit no one wants to talk about, but we hope that this is about to change.
Top 10 CrossFit Dangers
Here are some of the CrossFit dangers that you should be aware of:
- Overworked muscles
- Toxins in the bloodstream
- Poor coaching
- No pain, no gain
- It can potentially kill you
- The Paleo or Zone Diet is overrated
- Uniform workouts for everyone
- You’ll get obsessed?
- The temptation towards illegal drug use, including steroids.
- Knee injuries (remember the headline about Miranda Oldroyd tearing her ACL at the 2015 Games?)
Read on for more information about these potential problems with CrossFit.
Sore, Overworked Muscles
Rhabdomyolysis is a rare condition that used to only affect 0.06 percent of athletes treated for sore, overworked muscles. Since this medical condition is so rare, we had to wonder why a clown suffering from this potentially deadly disease was the proud, unofficial mascot of CrossFit. It seems that the constant repetitious exercises required in the daily workouts can not only strengthen your muscles, but also destroy them.
Extreme Workouts = Toxins in the Bloodstream
Extreme workouts and strength training exercises can cause the cells in your muscles to die and release potentially dangerous proteins into your bloodstream. While your kidneys are responsible for cleaning these proteins from your blood before it reaches other vital organs, the higher amount of myoglobin can cause life-threatening problems.
Not only can this be too much for your kidneys to handle, but they are also not designed to flush out myoglobin proteins, which often results in damage to the organ. In some extreme cases the breakdown of the muscle cells can also result in kidney failure.
The Problems with CrossFit
Poor Coaching: One of the Biggest Dangers of CrossFit
There are certainly certification programs for CrossFit coaches. However, like anything, there are better trainers than others. At best, the coach will show you proper technique, plan a variety of interesting workouts and motivate you to do your best.
At worst, they may not show your proper technique which could lead to injuries. They may also do the same things over and over again in their workouts which can lead to repetitive strain injuries. If you’re at a box with this kind of trainer, please switch! It’s just not worth it.
No Pain, No Gain Mentality
Years ago, no pain, no gain was all the rage in workout circles and among elite athletes. These days, the trend is more to listen to your body. If you’re injured, rest is key to recovery, not doubling down on working out and pushing through the pain. Our bodies need recovery time after intense workouts.
However, this no pain, no gain mentality is alive and well in CrossFit gyms. Should it be? Probably not. You want to be doing activities that make your body feel strong and healthy, not break it down.
“It can Kill you” How are Rhabdomyolysis and CrossFit related?
While founder Greg Glassman has been quoted to say, “It can kill you, I’ve always been honest about that,” no one expected the CrossFit program to potentially cause kidney failure. If we’re talking about CrossFit dangers, then Rhabdomyolysis should certainly be at the top of the list!
As the number of athletes with rhabdomyolysis continues to grow, we are still surprised by how few really understand how serious this condition can be. Then again, the CrossFit mind-set can be so intense that some instructors have been quoted as stating that it is okay to urinate during a workout.
Since we are convinced it is never all right to pee in the middle of a squat, we are not that surprised that the threat of a life-changing condition is not enough to convince some athletes that it is never a good idea to push yourself well beyond your limits.
Basically, Rhabdomyolysis causes muscles to break down and leak a protein, myoglobin into the bloodstream. In large amounts, this can lead to kidney failure and possibly death, although it’s usually cured by fluids and rest.
It’s usually caused by physical trauma, but there have been a rise in fitness related causes since high intensity interval training and Crossfit have become more popular. Three common symptoms are: pain, weakness and tea-coloured urine. If you notice these things, seek treatment immediately.
Part of the problem is that within the CrossFit community, this condition is seen as kind of a badge of honour and people have even been known to share selfies from the hospital with pride. Let’s work to change this attitude together, okay?
For more information on the signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, please visit the supplied link below.
The Paleo or Zone Diet is Overrated
One of the big attractions of CrossFit is that it promises to be more than just a workout. It’s more like a lifestyle that encompasses a new, healthier way of life.
Along with the workouts, most trainers recommend a paleo diet, which closely resembles the Zone diet. Some people have certainly had good results from this diet plan, but the science is a bit shaky at best.
Uniform Workouts for Everyone
You know that CrossFit workouts that get passed down from headquarters? They often recommend exercises with the same amount of weight for everyone, regardless of gender, fitness level or body weight.
You could potentially have a 100 pound woman who is new to CrossFit trying to do the same workout as the 200 pound, buff man who’s been doing CrossFit for 10 years. Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?
That said, most coaches do offer adaptations for their workouts so that even beginners can work out alongside the more advanced CrossFitters. Of course, one of the CrossFit box rules is that you should pay close attention to what your coach says so that you can find out what these adaptations are.
CrossFit Obsession: One of the Hidden Dangers
Not that it’s really a big problem, but once you start doing CrossFit, it’s easy to get hooked. Soon, you may be spending less time with your family and friends, and more time working out. Or, hanging around your CrossFit box talking Wods and personal bests with your new friends.
As a side effect, you’ll most certainly improve your health and get it shape! But, it may be a little bit difficult for your old friends to understand why you won’t have beer and nachos with them instead of going to the gym.
What are Some Common CrossFit Injuries and How to Prevent Them?
If you are going to do CrossFit, then you may want to know what are some of the most common injuries from this kind of workout. And, of course, how can you prevent these kinds of problems? Let’s find out about some of these dangers of CrossFit.
Lower Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common CrossFit injuries. This happens because of the stress that’s often put on your back through bending, lifting, jumping and flipping.
This type of injury can often be prevented by using proper technique, especially when weightlifting. Be sure to ask your trainer for advice on how to do the exercises if you’re a newbie, or even someone who has been around for a while but never learned the right technique in the first place.
And, when you have some back pain, don’t push through it. Stop, take a break for a while and get some treatment from a doctor, massage therapist or physiotherapist.
Some CrossFittters experience anterior (front) knee pain. It’s often because of overuse and strain, as things like heavy weightlifting and box jumps can place a particular burden on this area.
You can try using a knee sleeve to prevent this kind of injury. This little bit of extra support may be all that body needs to work through it.
You should also slow down and rest if you experience pain in the knees. Don’t forget about icing, stretching and compression too.
Learn How to Avoid Knee Injuries During CrossFit Workouts
This is another repetitive use injury that can happen because of CrossFit training. When you do a lot of weightlifting, rope climbing and other dynamic movements, it can put a lot of pressure on your joints, namely your tendons and ligaments.
Like a sore knee, the solution is usually rest, and icing the area to reduce swelling and inflammation. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist to find the best course of treatment for your individual situation.
You can prevent this problem by making sure that you have adequate rest days between workouts. Staying hydrated, eating healthy, and of course, using proper technique when lifting can help with this as well.
The tendon at the back of your heel is called your achilles and it attaches to the calf muscle at the back of your heel. It’s prone to an overuse injury, achilles tendonitis which may result in stiffness, swelling and foot pain.
Don’t be tempted to ignore this problem as it can result in further, more serious injuries. Once affected, you should visit a podiatrist to see the recommended course of treatment. It may include orthotics, heel inserts, stretching and strengthening, ice, etc.
In order to prevent this problem, start with a proper pair of workout shoes that are suitable for your foot type. If your feet turn inwards, or outwards, then you’ll want a shoe that helps to correct this and keeps your feet in correct alignment as you move.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Do you have pain on the outside of your thigh, around the knee area? Then you may have IT band syndrome. This results from excessive lower body exercises, particularly those that require bending of the knee (squats for example).
You can prevent this by ensuring that you adequately stretch before (after doing a light warmup) and after a workout. Pay close attention to the hip adductors and abductors. You can also strengthen those muscles through exercises like a standing side leg raise.
If it is sore, many people have had great success with this injury by using a foam roller.
The Top 3 Causes of CrossFit Injuries
Check out this short video to learn more about the most common injuries and also get some advice on how to prevent these problems:
Can Kids do CrossFit?
That’s a great question and we’re happy that you asked. It is certainly dangerous to start bodybuilding or heavy weightlifting too early, before physical maturity has been reached. However, kids as young as 7 or 8 can begin strength training, as long as they can follow instructions and do the correct technique.
There is a CrossFit specialty course for trainers who want to conduct kids classes, so ensure that any class you register your child for has a trainer with this certification. The focus should also be on fun, involve lots of games and focus less on competition or trying to beat certain benchmarks.
Find out more details here: CrossFit for Kids.
CrossFit Dangers FAQs
There are a number of common questions that people have about the dangers of CrossFit. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
Is CrossFit Bad for you Long Term?
CrossFit isn’t bad for you in the long term as long as you allow enough days of rest between workouts for your body to heal. Lack of rest time slows recovery but can also cause things like stress fractures, strains or even rhabdomyolysis.
Is CrossFit Healthy for your Body?
CrossFit is ideal for improving general fitness, including strength, power and muscular endurance. It can also assist with fat loss or weight loss. However, it should be done in moderation, especially when getting started with it with adequate rest between workouts.
Can You Die From CrossFit?
You may have heard that you can die from CrossFit. Unless you overtrain to the maximum without any rest, this is very unlikely to happen. However, there are some links between extreme CrossFit workouts and a fatal kidney condition known as rhabdomyolysis. This is when muscles break down and release a protein into the bloodstream that can cause kidney failure.
Is CrossFit Safe for Over 50?
CrossFit is certainly safe for older adults over the age of 50. However, be sure to join a beginner class or one that’s designed for older adults. These will be less intense and vigorous than regular WODs.
Is CrossFit Bad for your Heart?
If you have a heart condition, then CrossFit may be too much and should be avoided. However, for people who are healthy and reasonably fit, it will likely improve heart health and cardiovascular endurance. Check with your doctor before getting started.
Is CrossFit Bad for your Joints?
When done using correct technique and with adequate amounts of rest time between workouts, CrossFit is not considered to be bad for the joints. Where injuries to joints happen is with not enough recovery time and poor technique, especially when weightlifting.
Does CrossFit Hurt your Knees?
Knee pain is certainly possible from doing CrossFit as it requires repetitive knee bending when running, squatting or jumping. However, this knee pain problem is common to many sports and isn’t specific to CrossFit. Use proper technique and ensure adequate rest between workouts as well as gradually progress to more difficult workouts.
Have your Say about the Dangers of CrossFit
We are interested in hearing any feedback from you concerning this condition or any others. Please feel free to share this page with any friends or family members that might benefit from this information on CrossFit dangers.
Do you have any comments or questions? Please feel to share them below.
Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other people, like yourself who are considering whether or not CrossFit is right for them find this useful resource.
- Marston Sawyers, CrossFit Athlete and Husband of Brooke Ence - August 9, 2020
- Reebok Women’s ZQuick TR:Designed for CrossFit Workouts? - July 18, 2020
- Best Leg Extension Machine for Leg Curls at Home - July 8, 2020