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Prevent CrossFit Injuries

Prevent CrossFit Injuries

CrossFit is one of the biggest fitness crazes and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon – it’s practiced by more than 10,000 affiliated gyms, half of which are in the U.S. It’s considered a physical exercise regimen as well as a competitive fitness sport, incorporating elements of high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, strongman competitions, kettlebell lifting and other exercises.

The intensity of CrossFit “WODs,” or workouts of the day, has been credited with many people losing weight, getting stronger and transforming their bodies. However, it has also been linked to a rise in exercise-related knee injuries.

Squat the Right Way

“One of the major CrossFit movements that can be troublesome for your knees are the CrossFit squats, where [instructors] stress that everyone goes below 90 degrees during a squat,” said Nicole Catrambone Schaffer, an Abington-Jefferson Health physical therapist. A 90-degree squat is when you drop down into a seated-like position, creating a perfect 90-degree angle with your legs.

Schaffer said doing a squat below 90 degrees creates shear force and pressure on a pair of round, bony protrusions on each side of the femur bone in your thigh called femoral condyles.

According to Schaffer, who is a CrossFitter herself, doing this movement repetitively increases the pressure and contact of the structures in your knee, creating more wear and tear.

“It’s much safer to do squats no further than 90 degrees, so your body weight plus your barbell weight isn’t stressing the knee joint more than necessary,” she said.

Dropping below 90 degrees in a squat isn’t the only thing that can be troublesome for your knees during a CrossFit workout.

“Another mistake CrossFitters make is turning the knees in during this movement, which is usually caused by hip weakness,” Schaffer said. Letting your knees bend over the tips of your toes is also problematic – it’s much safer for your knees to keep them directly over your ankles.

Don't Push Yourself Too Far

Injuries can also stem from doing too much too soon.

“The workouts could trigger knee pain from adding too much weight too quickly, before the technique during these movements is perfect,” she said. “The workouts, or WODs, are meant to push you. Sometimes people can push themselves too far – knowing your own limitations is the key to doing CrossFit injury free.”

If you participate in a WOD and start experiencing knee pain, try stretching before and after working out.


Experiencing joint pain? Call 215-481-BONE to learn about orthopedic services available at Abington -- Jefferson Health.


“Stretching is something that isn’t done enough in general with CrossFit. I would advise CrossFitters to get there early and stretch their quadriceps, hamstrings as well as stretching out the hips,” Schaffer said.

If you begin to feel pain or discomfort during a workout, let your instructor know you need to modify the workouts until you feel 100 percent again. If stretching doesn’t ease the pain and taking a few days off to rest and recover doesn’t do the trick, you may want to contact your doctor.

Don't Let Fear Deter You

Although injuries are painful and can leave you sitting out of your workouts, Schaffer advises to not let the fear deter you from trying CrossFit.

“I have been doing CrossFit for over four years and, being a physical therapist, I understand the anatomy and biomechanics behind each movement. Knowing my own limitations are what keeps me injury free,” she said. “CrossFit has allowed me to gain more strength and power than I had back in my prime college athlete days. As long as you are careful and mindful of your own body, keeping proper form during the movements and working up slowly to increase weight, CrossFit is a great workout!”

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