The Conversation That Has To Be Had About Crossfit

For years, the wider fitness industry has warned people of the dangers of Crossfit, and now an injury nobody would wish on anyone has occurred.

Kevin Ogar, a Crossfit trainer in Englewood, Colorado, was performing a 3 Rep Max Snatch when he lost control of the bar overhead.

He was unable to get out of way in time, resulting in the bar damaging his T11 and T12 vertebrae, and severing his spinal cord.

Kevin currently has no feeling below his waist.

Weightlifting is dangerous. Whether it is Power lifting, Bodybuilding or Olympic lifting is irrelevant. There have been life-changing injuries in all of these sports, as well as deaths.

Crossfit is no different. One trainer even publicly came out, stating that clients should expect to get injured… it’s Crossfit.

How does Crossfit differ from all other types of lifting?

Kevin was competing in a competition that consisted of nine workouts over the course of a weekend.

According to the OC Throwdown webpage, the nine WOD’s the athletes were to compete in over the course of the day included:

WOD 1: The NFL combine
WOD 2: Squat Cleans and Handstand Push ups with Handstand Walks
WOD 3: 3 Mile Run
WOD 4: Touch and Go Snatch, 3 Position Clean and Jerk, Back squat
WOD 5: Overhead Squat, Muscle Ups, Wall Balls, Double Unders, Deadlift, Power Snatch

WOD 4 is where Kevin’s traumatic and awful injury occurred.

When a Olympic Lifter competes, they perform six lifts, three snatches and three clean and jerks, resting plenty between each set and, whilst it would be foolish for me to say they never have accidents, these athletes are rested enough to notice when they are going to miss a lift, allowing them to get out of the way of the falling barbell.

The Strength Bracket WOD, where Kevin injured himself, is an example of poor, dangerous and stupid programming.

The Snatch, Clean and Jerk, and Back squat are all hip dominant movements that require a significant amount of gluteal activity, hip extension/flexion, and thoracic spine mobility and tax the posterior chain.

Combining these three movements with a heavy load, the Snatch was being performed at a 3 Rep Max, will not build, or test, strength as the name of the WOD would imply, instead testing muscular endurance and sheer will power and mental fortitude.

To test strength, one would have to allow the muscle to completely repair itself between lifts, ala Olympic or Power lifting.

The Internet, in particular the Crossfit community, are calling this a ‘freak accident’ and yet, when he look at the idiotic programming of the OC Throwdown, we can see that it was more an accident waiting to happen.

What can we learn from the accident? And where do we go, as a fitness community, from here?

As I nonchalantly scrolled through Facebook, a number of posts regarding the injury to Kevin Oger caught my attention and, whilst there does seem to be some Crossfit members who are using this as a reason to finally question the programming and intensity of Crossfit, most are closing their eyes to the dangers they have just witnessed, instead talking about how people should focus more on the dangers of sitting on your arse, or focusing on how the community has banded together to raise funds for Kevin, who was uninsured at the time of the accident.

Whilst I don’t want to discredit the community for the amazing fundraising efforts they have undertaken, I do hope that, if nothing else, this opens up an avenue for further discussion and criticism of Crossfit, it’s model and its intensity expectations.

Because, if it doesn’t, millions more people will continue to be duped into believing that this inane workout regime is a shortcut, and the holy grail, to six pack abs, a tight butt and a ripped physique without realising the real danger they are putting themselves in.

And no, saying that “injuries happen in every sport” is not an excuse for injuries happening in yours!

For more of my writing about nutrition, exercise and life in general, please head over to

This entry was posted in Exercise and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

304 Responses to The Conversation That Has To Be Had About Crossfit

  1. Taylor says:

    Guys think about how many foot ball players he been injured or died even Bc of the sport… Guess we should stop that too. You say it not an excuse and it’s not it’s the simple truth it all comes down to good coaching and knowing your athletes as a coach myself I vigorously watch my athletes to make sure they are safe and stop them whenever I see something possibly dangerous .

    • chazz wilson says:

      what he is saying is that crossfitters have this loser system that they just throw people in the gym and dont really give them any real education on lifting. everything with them seems to be learn as u go and that’s not how fitness and weight training is. their diet plan system is mega garbage just like the ones u gay ass coaches give the kids that wanna be jacked and ripped like the pros. u guys put the on creatine and peanut butter like it’s the make all break all of weight gaining.

    • chris says:

      Yeah, its happened. But no football player ever died in the weightroom.

  2. Idiots says:

    I got hurt playing kickball. We should ban all kickball too.

  3. Scott says:

    I have been involved in strength training for over 20 years and coaching strength training for 15 years and when if first learned of crossfit about 10 years ago and their WOD’s I found it very interesting. Now with it’s explosion in popularity and “feverish” fan base of followers I find it fascinating. Whether cross fit is a sport or not, or it’s participants athletes or not is neither here nor there. Yes, this story is a tragedy and a prudent approach is to not shrug this off as a “freak” accident but a cautionary tale of protecting “athletes”. In traditional athletics there is a distinction between the development of strength / fitness (weight room) and demonstrating physical abilities (playing field). for example – in football it matters very little how much a player can lift in the weight room – their “strength” is tested on the field against another opponent in “live situations”. and yes there are inherent risks in playing football (not the point) but the training program to “develop” strength and prepare for “game day” (weight room, running, etc.) and the administers of that program should do everything they can to eliminate training risks and protect the players. game day accidents “happen” training room accidents are “inexcusable”

    now, what happens when the sport (cross fit) and the training (WOD) are the same thing? That is the real question and one that should be discussed among the crossfit community. If the “test” or “sport” involves a 3 rep max in anything. Than shouldn’t the training program be geared around the gradual build up to a best effort attempt on competition day… If we were to consider cross fit as strength competitions like, olympic lifting events, power lifting, strongman – than the training programs need to have a more strategic approach then just go as hard as you can for as long as you can…. That has proven to be a recipe for injury.

    Training and exercise are very personal to the individual and that’s what makes it a good activity. Crossfit, the idea of a higher intensity exercise of short duration is appealing to many people, but to follow an exercise dogma (any dogma) without questioning how its impacting your health or making individual adjustments is being very short sighted.

    Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing? be honest? if its health and better performance – than ask yourself if i get hurt “training” how is that improving my health or performance. Yes, everything involves risk – but we can make choices to minimize those risks.

    Train Hard and be safe.

  4. Ethan Whittington says:

    I am pretty sure if you sever your spinal cord you die.

  5. TP says:

    He did not lose control of the bar. I agree that non-CrossFitter’s think that much of the programming isn’t ideal but THEY aren’t used to the training intensity and volume that athletes like Ogar are used to.

  6. daniel H says:

    I agree that injuries like that shouldn’t happen and people involved in sports should take steps to minimise the risk. I also agree that maybe it wasn’t too clever to put those exercises together .
    But I do believe the author of this article just loves this opportunity to bash cross fit.
    You sir surely know there have been many deaths occurring in sports such as cycling, boxing, running etc. Are you calling for those to be ‘looked into’ as well ?
    Yes it is a tragedy what happened to that man but look at the numbers of active crossfitters across the world and tell me please what is the percentage of this type of accident happening in their sport? ONE so far , so please get off your high horse mister ,go try to get marathons banned or something of that sort .

  7. Becky says:

    My feeling of CF is to push myself to my best. Not your best, and not the best of the person beside me, but MY best. I am just starting but love it!!! I would never, nor would any of my trainers have me do anything that could injure me. So sorry for your injury, but I do not believe it is CF that caused the injury!!!

    • Chris says:

      The concept of self improvement in anything is to push yourself to be better then you were yesterday. In other words, make yourself better then your previous best. This is not a CF concept. In fact, it is a concept that has long been in any type of athletics of any level. Weight lifters push for a few extra pounds. Runners strive to shave off a few milliseconds. This concept surrounds every day life. To credit CF with this is beyond stupid.

    • shad valdez says:

      Look Lady at the end you seem to point the finger at the guy who got injured as the author here? and it wasn’t so go sip on some more CF juice and relax heh!!!

  8. Jack says:

    There are a billion gyms open now that you need no course to open. Just money.

  9. I’ve read this article both shaking my head and agreeing at the same time. I have been doing Crossfit for a little over a year now at Crossfit BGI in West Palm Beach. In my experience there I have learned proper form, technique and how to properly bail out before I even put up heavy weight. My coaches are great with their teachings. I have also seen people say that Crossfit classes have 50+ people, well its probably NOT a crossfit class but a gym saying that they “teach” crossfit. My classes have been anywhere from 1-12 people and even then our coaches are very much involved with all of us. I’m not the person who shoves crossfit down people’s throats, just because I love it doesn’t mean another person would.

    I do compete but not all crazy like and even in competitions we are watched closely. I haven’t seen the video of the accident to give my full input but I know that there are gyms both crossfit affiliate and not who do teach people HORRIBLY. Not all coaches are alike and it happens with any sport, fitness program and etc.

    I just want more people to see that not all Crossfit people are evil we do have some bad seeds and it happens.

  10. Chris morton says:

    As an orthopedic and sports medicine physical therapist, I have been seeing injuries directly related to Cross Fit for years. This injury was certainly tragic but illustrates the inherent risk of trying to turn this form of strength training into a competition. Amateur athletes often don’t recognize their limitations and attempt to perform above their abilities. I have seen numerous rotator cuff and labral tears, herniated disks, lateral hip tears, knee injuries, etc. The common thread in most of these injuries was the participant trying to keep up with the group as they were approaching failure yet being pushed by the group instructor. It’s almost a badge of honor to get injured in these classes which is a bad message for people just looking to stay fit. My prayers for the injured athlete as he will have a long road to recovery

  11. Wayne says:

    You can get hurt in any sport but I think these competitions need to rethink their programming strategy.

  12. PNG says:

    This is a result of a bad habit that is opposite of not exercising at all, and not staying fit/taking care of your body. This is a habit of trying to get more and more and more leaner, cut, fit for no reason but for impression. I can understand if you are in a sport that is paying you or even paying you a scholarship, but even those athletes are in a controlled workout environment with strength and conditioning coaches. Many people out there are over doing it with exercise just like many aren’t doing it enough. There’s a saying…everything you do, do in moderation.

  13. Jules P says:

    I have been doing Crossfit for more than 4 years and have NEVER been inured. For a trainer to say ” expect to be injured” ? Please people don’t go to that trainer whatever you do!!!
    The author of this article also doesn’t have the facts right as to how Kevin’s injury happened either.
    Just like anything, you have a few idiots running crossfit gyms that shouldn’t be, ruining it for the legit exceptional trainers, like mine.

  14. P.C says:

    Crossfit is not a sport end of story. Train for health and longevity.

  15. jon says:

    Nothing is perfect. I think there are a few problems with crossfit, but, in general, its an excellent way to exercise. From the moment I first drove a car I thought to myself, “Holy shit. I’m in a relatively flimsy box hurtling across the land at 60 mph, while other similarly flimsy boxes do the same and we are passing each other head on at arms distance.” But I’m never going to stop driving because the benefits outweigh the risks. And if you think you can avoid risk in your life then you are sorely mistaken.

  16. JCS says:

    And when your spine goes *snap* and you can’t control or feel yourself urinate and defecate, you’ll be wishing you just stayed on the couch eating cheesy-poofs.

  17. Christy says:

    The picture above, with the guy and the woman touching his face…he was not injured. He had just smashed open WOD 13.5. That was his mom telling him how proud she was of him.

  18. charlotte says:

    The bar bounced off the floor and hit him. That is a freak accident.

  19. The relevance of this article points out simply the flaws in a lot of CrossFit training. I myself have fallen to the plagues of CrossFit in a manner of speaking and inherently not all of CrossFit’s programming are bad.

    What is bad is when the trainers and coaches of these particular programs are just devising new forms of torture to help inflict bodily harm on people without considering if they’re ready for the challenge or not.

    CrossFit becomes a problem when you don’t realize just how badly you can injure people by doing too much too soon or doing something that has no basis in strength sports. (ie. Olympic lifts for time or multiple high intensity exercises back to back).

    I’m fine with people pushing themselves and have a great WOD or challenge, but proper programming and progressions should always be considered when performing these types of challenges and/or lifts. Especially for the general public.


  20. Crossfit has a number of major flaws in its system, and in the long term its members will feel the results of poor sequencing, no periodisation, and no restoration. Can can instructor learn the progression of a lift in 2wks, I hardly think so.
    As a restoration therspist I have yet to find a crissfit athlete with soft muscle tone. They sre all grossly over trained. But ignorance is bliss, until there is a crisis.
    Here is hopiing the injured athlete makes a full recovery, then best he train with a bonified lifting coach to understand was is and is not required to perform safely.

  21. Jo says:

    I mostly agree. I don’t feel that this is the smoking gun of why CF is bad. I think it’s the product of the conversation we need to have but to say that this poor man’s misfortune is the thing we need to talk about is missguided. Let’s face it, it’s all about CF making money and the real vision of CF died years ago. Of course there are some gyms holding out with good technique and quality training but they seem to be the exception. I have my full thoughts poster here if you actaully are interesed in my thoughts.

  22. Paul says:

    It is very true that many “lay” people can get into the crossfit industry and that people should be more properly trained and screened before being able to actually crossfit sport. The accident that happened to Kevin Ogar is unfortunate but like many people have said, even olympic lifters, who have trained for years on end, have suffered horrible injuries despite the knowledge and training base.

    Kevin Ogar had been lifting for many years and wasn’t just an “average joe” to the movement or sport. If I had to be techincal, the fault lies in the Oc Throwdown coordinators. If you watch the video the weights behind Kevin allowed the bar to fall down on them and ricochet back and injur Kevin.

    Proper coaches no that when doing a heavy lift like that, weights shouldn’t be that close, especially in the zone where the weights could be safely “dumped”

    Crossfit methodolgy is nothing new or different, People have been doing circuit types of training with weights and what not for years, the criticism lies in the industry allowing someone who has no physical training to obtain a Certification after a weekend of education. Their education and certification process should be changed and screened differently.

    • anix says:

      I think affiliation should be changed. Having an L1 means no guarantee of training or coaching CrossFit certainly in a credible box. But can you open your own. Yes. That is murky.

      Secondly I know contemporaries of mine who have degrees in kinesiology and are the worse trainers Ive seen because they simply are bad trainers. Intention yields to execution. They dont give a shvt, and one sits sits there watching the ESPN sports ticker on his iPad while his getting-ripped-off clients know none the less.

      I find it ironic no one says anything about Brandon Lilly’s horrific accident couple weeks ago wear he did all but paralyze himself. Also I dont see his community rallying to his cause, at all.

      This argument is asinine. Youre above points are spot on @Paul

  23. Pingback: The Monday Round Up Part III | Vitality Sciences LLC

  24. Pingback: Après-Crossfit-The Conversation about Fitness and Crossfit that we must have « Reebok CrossFit Backbay Reebok CrossFit Backbay

  25. Pingback: #WODsohard | Après-Crossfit-The Conversation about Fitness and Crossfit that we must have

  26. Pingback: B-Town Barbell ClubFebruary 2014 Newsletter | B-Town Barbell Club

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s