by Justin Gold
“I’ve heard CrossFit is really dangerous.”
I have heard this at many social get-togethers with non-CrossFit folks. I have heard all of the silly statements and concerns, of course:
“I have to get in shape first.”
“I don’t want to get bulky.”
“You guys are too crazy for me.”
But the assertion that CrossFit is inherently dangerous gets to me the most. It’s the hardest one to explain simply, and it’s such a definite in that person’s mind, that nothing I could say would really change their mind. I could spout off the normal stats, I could plead with them to come in and see for themselves… You know what, though? It is dangerous.
I have had my share of injuries. Sometimes I was even injured while I’ve had those particular conversations, and I lied through my teeth that I wasn’t. I have had close calls, where I COULD have got injured. We’d laugh it off since nothing happened. I have seen people get hurt. I thankfully haven’t seen or heard about anyone dying.
But here’s what you should know: it’s OK.
There is a level of danger and risk with everything. It’s part of living. And the more living you do, the more opportunities for something to take you out. People are hurt daily doing something as trivial as cutting a piece of food, to something as obviously high risk as mountain climbing with no rope.
People get hurt in CrossFit because they are people.
People want to listen, but already think they know what they’re doing. People like to push beyond what they should. People like to feel equal to, or superior to, other people. People often say they’re ok when they’re not. People always try, with various levels of success. People get scared and do silly things. People get brave and do silly things. People are stubborn. People do CrossFit, and sometimes get hurt.
‘Hurt’ is a broad range, however. It can be as minor as a tear in a palm or a sliced shin, to something as major as paralysis.
Sure, outside factors add to the possibility: a poorly run/coached establishment; poor equipment; freak accidents. If you think you fall into one of the first two camps, just leave. Find somewhere else. And the third, well, what can you really do? Nothing, I suppose. Stay home, where the only freak thing is your water heater blowing your house up.
Here are some common paths for people starting CrossFit (and it might help you realize where some of the “dangers” lie):
1. They start CrossFit with no experience and get hurt within the first month. Assuming they had good coaching and equipment, they probably did something wrong. Didn’t want to scale, couldn’t move correctly but tried to anyway. They either learn and grow, or quit and say it’s dangerous.
2. They start very conservative and slowly build confidence. They have some minor injuries, but nothing major. They get fit. They’re never #1 in class and they’re OK with that. This is a great scenario to be in.
3. They start with a little experience, they listen for a while, then go rogue. They know it all. They constantly push and think the answer is more and more. They end up hurt within their first year or so. They get humbled and start listening again, grow stronger than ever.
4. Same scenario as #3, but they never learn. They have constant injuries and setbacks. Their main priority is being the best, but they want the shortcuts to get there. They quit within a few years.
5. They start with a lot of experience. They don’t listen at all. They are hurt within their first month. Assuming they had good coaching and equipment, they probably did something wrong. Didn’t want to scale, couldn’t move correctly, but tried to anyway. They either learn and grow, or quit and say it’s dangerous.
I’ve been involved in CrossFit for 7 years; those are the most common scenarios I’ve seen. And it really is that simple. People get hurt doing CrossFit for different reasons in different ways at different times. It is as dangerous as anything can be. But the safer you try to be and the more you try to educate yourself, the less likely you are to get hurt. And the dumber you are, the more dangerous it is.
So, if you are ever in a conversation with someone and they ask if CrossFit is dangerous, ask them point blank if they are smart or stupid. They’ll probably say smart. Then tell them, “Yes, it’s dangerous.” And leave it at that.
Justin Gold is a former collegiate track and field athlete and swimmer and is now a Coach at Trojan CrossFit.