Rehab for the Crossfit Athlete


If you are familiar with CrossFit, you understand that it can be an intense workout that consists of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, calisthenics, gymnastics, and other forms of exercise put together in one group workout setting. CrossFit and other CrossFit-type workouts foster a sense of community and competition, making it a very appealing form of exercise that attracts all ages and skill levels. Aside from the intense sense of community and “family” that people can feel when involved, another aspect of the sport that attracts a following is the general sense of fitness and athleticism that people seek – watching the multiple competitions held throughout the year is incredibly impressive, demonstrating the feats of strength and endurance that these elite athletes can achieve.

Given the nature and intensity of the activities involved, CrossFit is often looked at as an injurious sport, but, if coached well and scaled correctly, it is no more (and, actually, often less) “dangerous” than the typical team or field sport like football or soccer. The injuries experienced in CrossFit tend to be “overuse” type issues, like muscle strains or tenodesis-type injuries, versus the traumatic-type injuries like ligament tears or fractures that occur more frequently in field sports. Injuries in the CrossFit box are more likely due to the athlete increasing exercise volume or intensity too quickly, and are often able to rehabilitate via movement substitutions or program adjustments. 

When seeking out physical therapy in relation to a CrossFit injury, it is important to find a provider who understands the sport and is willing to work with you to meet your goals. A lot of times, CrossFit athletes are nervous to seek aid when injured out of fear that they will be told to stop participating in their sport. This does not need to be the case! Most of the time, CrossFit injuries can be treated by temporarily altering or scaling movements (ie performing hang power cleans instead of cleans or step-ups instead of box jumps), adjusting the weight used, or adjusting repetitions while the injured tissue heals. A lot comes down to managing the program. Other interventions could include adding a specific warm-up to tend to the issue before exercising or adding a specific accessory movement to use during your workout to also address the area that needs attention. Your physical therapist may recommend temporary rest from certain activities if needed, but should also be able to help you stay as active as possible by providing alternative movements or adjustments to keep you moving and motivated while you heal!

Like with most sports, CrossFit athletes tend to identify highly with the sport. When injured, these athletes can feel a loss in their sense of self and worry about when/if they can get back to the box. Finding a provider that can support recovery and help the athlete safely and efficiently reach their goals is extremely important. Our bodies are meant to move and physical therapy should be physical! It is important to remember that no movement is inherently dangerous; coaching can be done and alterations can be made to help each person achieve their individual goals – just make sure your providers are equipped to help you reach your potential!

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