Despite CrossFit's growing popularity among military fitness facilities - a topic that we covered in a previous article - it has its fair share of opponents.

Before launching your CrossFit program, consider both sides of the debate. For many facility operators, it's a matter of gauging injury frequency (which many say is elevated with CrossFit), against its physical fitness benefits.

Regardless of what side of the argument you fall, this much is certain: More data is needed.

In 2011, the Consortium for Health and Military Performance and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released the "Consensus Paper on Extreme Conditioning Programs in Military Personnel." The paper looked at extreme conditioning programs, including CrossFit and Insanity, and revealed that "physicians and other primary care and rehabilitation providers have identified a potential emerging problem of disproportionate musculoskeletal injury risk, particularly for novice participants."

Injuries translate to "lost duty time, medical treatment and extensive rehabilitation."

Dr. David Geier, director of sports medicine at Medical University of South Carolina and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, notes that CrossFit practitioners are people looking for dramatic health and fitness changes, which can lead to injury.

"You're getting people who haven't done a lot of those different types of moves before," he says. "They're determined, no question — they don't quit, or they try not to quit, their bodies get tired, they lose their form and they get hurt."

The ACSM paper recommends that "an effective and safe conditioning regimen must consist of incremental, progressive introduction of exercises and workloads based on fitness and specific conditioning needs and limitations of the individual" (emphasis original).

Geier notes that he has no real problems with CrossFit when performed correctly, and he appreciates the variety of exercises available to participants; however, he insists that individuals must discriminate when looking at a CrossFit program.

"I think a CrossFit program is probably only as good as the people that do it and the instructors that are teaching it," Geier says. "I think people who go into it need to do their homework a little bit and maybe look at more than one CrossFit [facility].

Dr. Michael Esco, associate professor of physical education and exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery agrees. A fan of a variety of workouts, including some CrossFit workouts, he recommends caution, particularly when looking at a facility's CrossFit trainers.

"Even though you go to an affiliate, the coaches have a weekend certificate," he says. "I'm in a field of academics where we teach students; it takes years to learn the proper mechanics of an Olympic lift, for example, or a plyometrics exercise - far more than just a weekend certificate."

The Level 1 Certificate Course: Fundamentals of CrossFit, is a two-day introduction to CrossFit designed to "provide attendees the knowledge to better use CrossFit methods for themselves … and provide attendees an initial and foundational education to begin training others using CrossFit," according to the CrossFit website.

Some risks are real. And it's something to which facilities might want to pay attention. In 2008 a jury awarded a former Navy sailor $300,000 after suing a commercial gym following a CrossFit workout that he said left him disabled.

Anecdotal? Yes. And a variety of exercises and workouts are potentially dangerous - from riding a bike to ultramarathon running. Still, overtraining and injury remain a primary concern of some CrossFit detractors. And there's no shortage of them - just as there's no shortage of supporters.

One of the most active news repositories for CrossFit-on both sides of the equation-is The Huffington Post, but that's by no means the only place. Overall, it's a matter of personal education. This goes not only for practitioners, but the dozens of military facilities that attract the CrossFit crowd.

The ACSM paper recommends a variety of approaches to help prevent injuries among CrossFit participants. Among them is the encouragement that fitness facility officials perform detailed inspections of equipment and exercise areas to ensure the atmosphere is as safe as possible for those working out.

For many, however, it's still not quite enough. ACSM researchers note the need for more research on the subject, and they're not alone. Just ask Esco.

"I do a Google search on 'CrossFit exercise,' just those two words, and I'm getting 11.3 million [links]," he says. "I do the same phrase in a [medical publication] scientific search engine, and I get one scientific study. We definitely need to catch up."

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Let the debate begin!! In the interest of full disclosure, I have an interest in a local Crossfit box. I also own/manage traditional health health clubs. I have degree in exercise science and am a CSCS. My resume in the health/wellness/sport/athletic fields is pretty varied and wide ranging. Crossfit can lead to an increase in injuries IF the coaches aren't careful and qualified. Is this any different than any other sport or any other type of workout? Crossfit is NOT sport specific. Is that a bad thing? Many people might get better results from other forms of training. So they should do something else. But people do enjoy Crossfit. The people who put in some effort, get results (they get stronger, they lose weight, they feel better, they develop confidence, etc.). Some people don't enjoy it. Some people don't like it. As a business model, it is valid. Each box can/does make a profit. "Crossfit corporate" makes a HUGE profit. Should we hold that against them? My question is--why does Crossfit cause such anger among "traditional" coaches and trainers?
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"Why does Crossfit cause such anger among "traditional" coaches and trainers?"
I would like to comment on that. I think it causes anger among coaches and trainers because it is a new style workout that has gained alot of popularity that they are not familiar with. Coaches at least when my kids were growing up (not too long ago) were alway showing contraindicated exercises and stretches. I always felt they were so old school and needed to take some updated workshops. Anytime a new workout hits the fitness scene it becomes a controversy, its just the name of the game. Not everyone is going to feel all workout styles are safe and benefiting. The same arguments came when Step was introduced, it was bad for your knees etc. what about Spinning? I have been around long enough to know trends come and go in the fitness industry and not everyone is going to agree about their effectiveness or their safety. However, it is especially important when having a Crossfit style group class for the instructors to have safety of the participant as the number one priority and to be able to monitor each person individually to notice if they have gone beyond their personal limits unsafely. They should be able to show modifications as well to what they are showing the class in my opinion and I am sure someone will disagree with that statement as well.
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I appreciate that attempt at balance in this article, but I would caution against accepting the conclusions of the CHAMP paper at face value. The CHAMP paper has been thoroughly deconstructed by CrossFit's chief scientist and shown to be little more than a hit-piece. journal.crossfit.com/2012/09/consortium-...ne-consensus-pap.tpl The lead author of the CHAMP paper, William Kraemer, has never responded to CrossFit's treatment of his work. Kraemer is also currently the editor-in-chief of the NSCA's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, which recently published a "CrossFit-based" study. Unfortunately, the study's own coordinator claimed the authors fabricated injury data to make CrossFit look more dangerous. (library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_ACSM_Berger4.pdf) Kraemer has also declined to commented on this study or publish a retraction.
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Good article. Regarding 'anger' of Fitness professionals vs Cross Fit, I think the word caution is better. I dont see any more caution ( or the cross fit protectors calling anger) amongst Fitness Professionals who have been in the field for years about Cross Fit any more than they may have for Zumba, childrens sports taught by volunteers, Dance Classes, gymnastics, high impact aerobics on bad floors of the 1980's, MMA, Yoga that holds a loaded pose for 7 minutes, extreme yoga poses, or so may other forms of movement. With any and all of these (plus more) there is and should be caution. In all of these there have been injuries that could have been prevented. It has nothing to do with whether it is 'traditional' or new and enthralling. It has to do with safe progressions taught by a qualified fitness professional Injury prevention is a hallmark of Fitness Certification training. While the individual exerciser and the person leading the class may enjoy high test energy (and I do as well myself), nothing replaces good solid fitness, exercise and movement education and safety training which is fundamental to certifications such as American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, and many others (almost too many to list). The problem develops when any instructor of any mode, who is marginally qualified, or 'minimally qualified' per some organization but who in their enthusiasm, even with good intent may push people beyond wise progression of fitness. Furthermore people themselves get excited to 'go for it' That is all nice. But not nice when the body breaks. In any of these forms of fitness there have been injuries that could be prevented. Some of them are short lived. Others turn into long term limitations or disabilities. Certified Fitness Professionals are are after preventing this and instructing their participants how to build a strong foundation of health and fitness, with doable progressions so that as time goes then they can take on the increasing workloads safely and with how 'their' body moves and works and what is 'best for them ' not just what is in a predetermined formula of some sort There are unqualified people teaching many things out there - currently there are no laws with minimum qualifications or licensing for many of these fields. Consumer beware ACSM-CPT
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Rob and Joan, I think you might have missed the exact argument of the article to your points. A participants enjoyment is irrelevant to the issue of safety. The article pointed out that when someone receives a certification over a weekend it is no guarantee that they will have the experience or knowledge to set up a safe progressive training plan for a participant. This matches up with your arguments as to how it isn't different from a Yoga class and any other sport. All Yoga classes and athletic teams are not run by individuals who can safely modify the activity. That was the point of the article.