Can You CrossFit and Be Injury Free?

CrossFit is a demanding sport. It involves complex (multi-joint) movements with load and high repetitions. This is done to exhaustion. If you’re not careful it’s easy to get hurt, which can be a major setback.
The last thing you want to do is put time and energy into getting stronger/more fit only to end up injured. The recovery time could put you back months, or worse, you may never be able to do CrossFit again without pain. Fortunately I have some screening tools to help you make CrossFit injury proof. The following mobility tests (done cold) are the best way to check risk for injury.

  1. Starting at the top, your neck needs to move. Stand against a wall, keeping your heels, shoulder blades and head in contact with it. Drop your chin downwards while sliding your head up the wall (This will cause a chin-tuck motion). Without letting your head leave the wall, go as far as possible. Note how difficult this is. If there is any amount of stretching, pain, shrugging or difficulty this is a fail.
  1. Next up are your shoulders. Stand in front of a mirror and bring your arms all the way up to your head. Both arms (biceps) should be able to touch your head with ease. If there is any space between your head and biceps, or if this requires shrugging, tightness, pain or difficulty this is a fail.
  1. Now for the wrists. Standing in front of a wall bend your arm at your elbow to 90 degrees. Place your forearm flat against a wall, about shoulder height (keeping the forearm vertical). Place the fingers of your other hand on the fingers of the hand being tested, and pull your hand/wrist backwards. Going as far as possible note how far backwards your fingers can go. They should be able to bend well past 90 degrees and cause no stretching, pain or difficulty.
  1. Moving on to the low back and hips. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and bend forward to touch your toes. Can you touch the floor? If you can’t, this is a big deal and your low back is at a high risk for injury.
  1. Next are your knees. Do your knees bend properly? Lie on the ground with one leg flat and the other bent. Grabbing the ankle of the bent leg pull your heel all the way to your butt. Does it touch? It needs to, and if it doesn’t, it’s a big deal. This shouldn’t be difficult or cause pain or tightness. Repeat on the other side.
  1. Lastly, let’s check your ankles. Place a ruler on the floor perpendicular to and in contact with the wall. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart place both hands on the wall. Step on the ruler with the ankle your testing about 2 inches out. Step back with the other leg in a cross stance. Now, bending the knee of the ankle your testing, drop the knee down and towards the wall (just like a calf stretch). Can you do this without your heel popping up? Good. Now slide your heel back another inch and repeat. Do this until you can’t get your knee to the wall without lifting your heel. Healthy is roughly 6 inches. Repeat on the other side.

These are fantastic tests. They’re simply asking if your can body move through space. You should be able to pass each of these tests without warming up (meaning they’re done cold). If you failed any of them your body is at a higher risk for injury, given the load required for CrossFit. Even worse is failing multiple tests. Each test you fail significantly increases your risk for injury in a compounding fashion. If you want to continue doing CrossFit at a high level without getting hurt make sure you’ve aced each test first, and if not get checked by a trained professional. I can help with that!

Dr. Doug Rawlick, D.C.
Phone: 780-965-9735

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