CrossFit and Injuries: From an expert’s view


Peter Dan Willén, physiotherapist and soon to be osteopath, daily treats ‘wounded’ crossfitters at Butcher’s Lab, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Facebook page for Butcher’s Rehab:


What is the most common injuries that you see amongst CrossFitters?

The regions most commonly overtrained/stressed are the shoulder joint and the lower back.

Shoulder problems

People most often complain about pain, ”murmurs”, a feeling of tightness/fatigue – most often in the front part of the shoulder. In most cases the discomfort appears as a consequence of having overused the infraspinatus muscle or other muscles in the ‘rotator cuff’. Sometimes blood supply or nerves are partially or completely cut off.

The explanation behind most shoulder injuries is the excessive amount of overhead work done in CrossFit. By learning the correct weightlifting techniques, people quickly become capable of moving large loads overhead, without actually being strong or mobile enough to support the load once it’s up there. We neglect the general stability and mobility training, and in addition to that we start lifting too heavy, too many repetitions, too many times a week – way to soon.

Lower back problems

In relation to the lower back, people often complain about pain or stiffness in the part of the lower back closest to the pelvis. Sometimes this is accompanied by ”starting” problems after periods of rest and/or pain radiating towards the glutes, legs or feet. In those cases, I would strongly suggest seeing a doctor, physiotherapist or osteopath before proceeding with any form of training.

The reasons behind lower back problems are strikingly similar to those causing the shoulder problems mentioned above. A general lack of mobility and strength in the supporting musculature combined with a very high training volume and intensity. A deeper explanation behind the amount of injuries in CrossFit might be that the amount of training is unbalanced in relation to the amount of recovery and the quality of nutrition.

It seems as if there is somewhat of a connection between shoulder issues and lower back problems. I am in the process of examining this and will soon come up with a questionnaire that will be handed out electronically to all crossfitters. The more information I can gather, the better I can tailor my advice and treatments towards the CF community.

When you are injured, should you stay completely inactive or can you still participate in CrossFit to some extent?

Obviously, this depends on the seriousness of the injury. For most minor injuries, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to move around a little and get those most-needed endorphins. The key is to keep the injured region as inactive as possible, while focusing on other body parts. However, before starting any training regime, you should always consult a professional (physiotherapist or osteopath), as you otherwise run the risk of making the injury worse.

Read Peter’s 13 tips on injury prevention on the blog tomorrow!


2 thoughts on “CrossFit and Injuries: From an expert’s view

  1. Mobility and stability along with basic movement patterns, is the key to injury prevention.
    It`s fun to move heavy things and fast butt one step at the time.

  2. Hi Peter,
    Just a thought or two on the (maybe) connections/patterns between lower back pain and shoulder pain… Besides the huge workload of cause…
    How is the mobility of your crossfit clients thoracic part of the spine? And the hips… The hips are probably quite mobile with all the squatting etc. But how about T1-T12? If there’s not enough mobility there wouldn’t you have to compensate in the shoulder joints? And lower back?
    And how is their breathing patterns? Do they use the ribcage for breathing even when relaxed like a lot of athletes do?
    Just some thoughts… Would love to hear your respond.

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