CrossFit Sues "Competitor" For Revealing Its Injury Rates

CrossFit, America's high school weight room for adults, is suing the National Strength and Conditioning Association for publishing a study it says is "based on data that is objectively false" and "intended to scare participants away from CrossFit."

The study, published in November by the NSCA's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, is titled "Crossfit-based high intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition." Researchers from Ohio State's kinesology department examined the changes that occurred in a group of 54 CrossFit participants (all of whom, amazingly, were on a paleo diet) over 10 weeks, concluding that subjects lost body fat and increased their VO2 max, or oxygen consumption. But they also included one sentence that has become the center of the suit:

Of the 11 subjects who dropped out of the training program, two cited time concerns with the remaining nine subjects (16% of total recruited subjects) citing overuse or injury for failing to complete the program and finish follow up testing.

CrossFit claims that the study was "at best the result of sloppy and scientifically unreliable work, and at worst a complete fabrication." They sought out the nine members of the study, they say. "Those participants denied reporting that they failed to finish because of injuries. Indeed, those participants asserted that they had not been in contact with Mr. Devor and his team at all regarding their reasons for not completing the study, or regarding injuries in general."

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Uh huh. Because there's no pressure whatsoever when your hobby's governing body confronts you. (Never mind the fact that an additional study, published online the same month by the Journal, found "Injury rates with CrossFit training are similar to that reported in the literature for sports such as Olympic weight-lifting, power-lifting and gymnastics and lower than competitive contact sports such as rugby union and rugby league.")

CrossFit's suit is a long, rambling document that spirals into the assertion that the NSCA's motive was to harm CrossFit's business of certifying trainers (both groups turn a brisk profit from teacher-training): "In short, the NSCA and ACSM are largely responsible for maintaining the status quo in the massive fitness industry," CrossFit's suit says, "and they have a vested interest in doing so."

The NSCA has responded, claiming in effect that CrossFit should start wearing a tinfoil hat to accompany its batshit theories.

Whether it comes to gym accidents or spinal injuries, CrossFit has become an unsympathetic plaintiff in the court of public opinion. This isn't anything unique; there is a general disdain for any fitness subculture that takes itself too seriously, runners included. But CrossFit in particular seems to channel the spirit of the football players that used to stuff you into a locker. When it comes to flipping tractor tires, the edge goes to CrossFit. But when it comes to matters of science, most are going to side with the men in white coats.