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Crossfit Training and Physical Therapy: Bridging the Gap

What is CrossFit training?

CrossFit training is a high intensity, fitness regimen that was developed by Greg Glassman in the early 2000s. Through research, I have found that the overall approach to CrossFit training is to perform various functional movements at a constant, high intensity. These training regimens are designed to incorporate an influx of components that may include powerlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, and high intensity interval training. The training sessions are broken down into short periods with minimal rest breaks in between exercises that challenge CrossFitters to compete against each other and the clock.

The Ultimate Relationship

So, now that we know a little bit about what CrossFit Training is, why do physical therapists need to get involved? CrossFitters train at maximal levels that push their bodies to extreme limits. Therefore, this may lead to injuries. Since Physical Therapists specialize in a deeper understanding of functional movements and CrossFitters focus on the performance of functional movements at high intensities, what better relationship should be formed? In order to successfully bridge the gap, I believe that Physical Therapists can educate CrossFitters on different ways of understanding various types of stresses that are imposed on their bodies and joints during higher level training. In gaining understanding and carrying over that same knowledge into training, this “ultimate duo” between Physical Therapists and CrossFitters can be beneficial and a gateway toward reducing the likelihood of injuries occurring and re-occurring.

CrossFit Injuries

With any type of training injuries can occur, especially if body mechanics, lifting mechanics, or basic knowledge of an exercise is not properly explored. Many people experience bone and joint injuries by performing inappropriate movements or lifting weights without correct techniques. Training on appropriate techniques during exercise can help aide in reduction of injuries.

According to Dr. Chris O’Grady of O’Grady Orthopaedics, the most commonly injured body areas during CrossFit are:

­-Back: “Bending and lifting can lead to back injuries, especially lifting weights with poor form. Lumbar strain, sciatic pain or a herniated disc are some back injuries that CrossFitters could experience. A strong core can ease strain on the back (O’Grady, 2017).”

-Shoulders: “CrossFit routines can place shoulders in positions that put stress on the vital structures within the joint. Athletes could face shoulder injuries, such as a torn labrum, torn rotator cuff or subacromial impingement, where the tendons of the rotator cuff become pinched. Overuse can also irritate and inflame tissues. Better posture and exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff can increase mobility and decrease shoulder injuries (O’Grady, 2017).”

-Knees: “Movements, such as squatting and jumping, strain the knees. Knee injuries can range from strain to a meniscus tear. While lifting and doing squats, focus on posture and positioning the knees correctly. Some athletes use knee sleeves to increase stability (O’Grady, 2017).”

-Ankles: “The Achilles tendon can become strained while doing CrossFit. Sprains can take place when athletes accidentally roll their ankles. Athletes could also experience a metatarsal stress fracture. The metatarsal is five long bones in the midfoot (O’Grady, 2017).”

-Wrists: “Wrist injuries can occur with exercises, such as deadlifts, cleans and bench press. Athletes can experience tendonitis, sprains, muscle strain or cartilage tears. Some athletes wrap their wrists to provide more stability (O’Grady, 2017).“

 

The Pros

Recent research has shown that participation in CrossFit Training improves metabolic capacity (energy transformation in the body) and results in improvements in fitness based on maximal oxygen uptake, VO2 max (maximal rate of oxygen consumption) and body composition. There is also a close correlation in decreased body fat percentages are seen in both men and women.

Tips to Prevent Injuries:

-Warm-ups: The period before any athletic/ training performance

  • Timeframe: 5-10 minutes of slow activity (i.e. jogging; skipping)

-Having trouble controlling a movement during training? STOP

  • It’s important to play it safe (pun intended), without opening avenues for injuries to occur

-Get rid of the “No Pain, No Gain” Mentality

  • I’m all for pushing yourself, but know your limits. Pushing oneself beyond the limit to succeed and make progress should not be the gateway to an injury.

– Mobility training

  • Focus on increasing range of motion and stability of joints by incorporating strength and flexibility. This would allow higher vertical, increased squat depth, and improved functional reach.

-Cool-downs: The period after any athletic/training performance

  • Timeframe: 5-10 minutes

 

Blog written by: TaLisa Cummings, DPT Fusion Physical Therapy

Sources:
http://www.osteopathicmanualmedicine.com/2017/02/15/crossfit-injuries
https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-safety-of-crossfit-from-a-physical-therapy-viewpoint
https://thebarbellphysio.com/truth-crossfit-injuries/
https://ogradyorthopaedics.com/common-crossfit-injuries/
https://newgradphysicaltherapy.com/physical-therapy-and-crossfit/
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