“There’s a perception that CrossFit is more dangerous than a sport like triathlon or even just running, but there’s no data to back this up,” asserts T.J. Murphy, author of “Inside The Box,” a book on how injuries suffered from running and triathlon drove him into the world of CrossFit. “What we do know is that three out of every four runners in America suffer an injury every year.”
CrossFit is a comprehensive strength and conditioning program offered at more than 5000 different gyms across the country. With an emphasis on proper movement, mechanics and core strength, some oft-injured triathletes take to the sport as a way to correct and prevent imbalances leading to discomfort and pain. CrossFit also aims to aggressively build mobility and increase power flow from the core muscle groups (hips, shoulders, hamstrings) to the extremities (arms and legs).
“Triathletes with poor posture and poor mobility and power generation from the hips and shoulders ultimately are exposed to injury problems and power drain in all three of the triathlon disciplines,” says Murphy, “If you can’t hold a proper aero position on the bike for a long period of time, for example, you’ll lose out on channeling power from the larger muscle groups as well as be forced to sit up and catch more wind drag.”
The most common injury in CrossFit gyms are abrasions and tears on the skin of the hands, a result of the amount of pull-ups and barbell work performed. As the hands build up calluses, this risk generally decreases with proper hand care (using chalk during the exercises, for example).
As with weight training, CrossFit brings a risk of injury when done improperly. Murphy strongly recommends all new CrossFit athletes learn proper techniques in “On Ramp” classes, where movements are taught with a PVC pipe.
“Even after the initial training, triathletes can reduce risks of movement injuries by scaling down the workouts and using small, lighter loads. By keeping the weights light, injury risk is diminished even if mechanics haven’t been mastered. When the mechanics have been mastered, the exercises are very safe to do.”