CROSSFIT OPEN: Injury Mechanisms as they relate to the Back

It’s that time of year again. No, not Easter when we can all pig out on sugar filled egg shaped treats with no lasting guilt, well that is true but what I am talking about is the Open. Yes, it’s CrossFit crazy in HK at present. In fact all over the world.

With more than 12,000 affiliates world wide, and 10 in Hong Kong its clear this sport is aggressively growing in popularity. We know its only going to rise; so what does this mean for health professionals in the industry.



What is our role as health professionals?

Can you imagine telling a writer they can no longer put pen to paper? Or a chef they are no longer allowed to create culinary masterpieces? No, well then why would a health professional tell a CrossFitter to stop CrossFit. Weather it be a weekly social fitness class you attend or a ‘your life revolves around it and this is all you have ever wanted’ venture they both require passion, investment, and sacrifices on your part. Needless to say it’s their choice. The role of a health professional is to support an athlete in the sport in which they choose to do, not dictate weather it is the right or wrong sport.

If presented with an individual complaining of pain symptoms during a specific movement, that specific movement must be analyzed. If pain is present when squatting, that movement needs to be broken down joint-by-joint and considered how these will differ under various stresses. Basically there is no one size fits all. Does one body weight squat cause pain? No. What about a back squat carrying 200lbs, No? What if the individual says, when they perform 20 burpees and a 300m-row prior then 1-body weight squat causes pain? We then need to look at what has changed from scenario one to scenario two.


Movement matters

Let’s take a look at one discipline involved in this sport and what it means for the health professionals and coaches working with these athletes on a daily basis.

The ‘Oly’ discipline of CrossFit signifies the use of Olympic lifts within the sport.

The routine Olympic lifts demonstrated are squat and power variations of a Snatch and clean and jerk.


What this means to the athlete?

The technicalities of Olympic lifts still elude even the most experienced athletes, those who can execute these highly technical lifts demonstrate in no particular order; muscle synchronization, speed, power, strength, flexibility and a precise mentality. If you want to, for the sake of this article, include these lifts in your ‘WOD’ with high reps, high volume and in a fatigued state, you must first prove competency without these.

During movements that require the spine to stay stable whilst bearing a heavy load – in this case we can say a barbell during a heavy lift. There are many variables affecting the correct squat part of the movement. Ankle mobility, hip socket biomechanics, fatigue and just trying to get the biggest number possible on the board are just a few contributing factors that expose the body to high-risk conditions.


What can do about it? #intelligentmovement

Ensure athletes are lifting within their capabilities, before adding weights and plates trying to hit those PR’s. Focus on correct biomechanics of the movement. If implementing mobility into an athletes program be sure to strengthen at end ranges. Creating new funky ranges of mobility overhead will only be efficient if control and strength is present throughout. Keep Volume to a minimum in less experienced athletes.

We can work with athletes safely controlling factors such as loading, bar speed and biomechanics to create challenging workouts using CrossFit principles.