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Competition care by Bloqaid

Posted: 24 January 2020 in Uncategorized

Written by: Dr. Ashley Hilton

How To Avoid Injury At CrossFit Competitions

As a doctor, having worked at many CrossFit competitions, I have seen a wide variety of injuries that people have picked up when competing at CrossFit events. However, there are a small number of injuries that consistently take up a disproportionate amount of those seen during CrossFit competitions. Here is a list of the five most common problems competitors face at CrossFit events and how to avoid them:

 

Head Injury / Concussion

We have doctors and paramedics on site to perform head injury assessments for any athlete (or other attendee of the event) who sustains a head injury or jolt to the neck. As competitors, judges and organisers, you are not expected to perform an assessment of competitors yourself, however please be on the lookout for anyone sustaining a head or neck injury. In some cases, even apparent minor blows to the head and neck have led to serious injury.

Of course, everybody’s safety is of paramount importance to us, so if you see anyone sustain a head injury or a jolt to the neck, please stop the athlete so they can have a head injury assessment performed by a medical professional. 

I have provided a link to NICE’s ‘information to the public’[1] on symptoms to lookout for, however please get a medical professional and let them perform a formal assess. 

 

Hand Rips

By far the most common injury I see at CrossFit competitions. Hand rips occur from the gripping and twisting motion of muscle-ups, pull-ups or heavy barbell work. The main cause being overgrowth of hand calluses. At best they can make an already tough heat doubly painful. At worst they can mean the end of the competition for you.

 

Solution

This one is all in the preparation. Grips are a viable solution, however see the study below showing how they reduce grip strength and tactile sensation[2]. From a performance point of view, the best way to avoid rips and improve grip strength is to maintain your hands – this means a smooth even palm with minimal calluses. Minimal because you need the protection that 1mm of callus thickness will provide, but overgrown, unmanaged calluses are what cause rips. Moisturiser and something like BLOQAID Hand Callus Tool to file them down to a reasonable size, even the day before the competition, is the best solution. Unless you’re an amateur surgeon, DON’T use blades! It leaves cratered, uneven palms that worsen the problem, not to mention it being incredibly unhygienic. 

 

Ankle/Calf injuries

Ankle flexibility is the most important predictive factor in the likelihood of developing any injury. I’ll say that again. If you have good ankle mobility, your chances of sustaining an injury anywhere else on your body dramatically decrease. Quite amazing. For those who don’t get bored by the science, I’ve linked to one of many articles out there that prove this and explain why it helps.[3] [4] [5]

 

The solution

After every workout (yes every workout), finish your session with a calf stretch. The best way is to get a platform angled at 20°incline and stand for 5 minutes with your glutes tensed, body upright and ankles flexed as per the angle of the platform.  The last minute of the five is when you usually start to feel it most. This is when it starts to have the majority of its effect. The 5 minutes is a good time to set a timer on your phone and catch up on some emails whilst your calves slowly loosen. When the 5 minutes are up, it’s important to finish with 3 calf contractions (calf raises) to avoid any tears. As your ankles get more flexible over a period of weeks, you can slowly increase the incline of the platform. 

 

Rotator Cuff Tears

A group of four muscles that are some of the most at risk when performing any overhead movements. A really niggly injury, quite common in CrossFitters that can persist and put people out for a long time.

 

Solution

A combination of short and long term exercises to help avoid shoulder injuries. On the day of the competition (and every warm up for that matter), take a really small weight and do the exercises shown here. The reason it should be a small weight (no more than 4kg) is because anything bigger and the movement is taken over by the larger shoulder muscles (deltoid, trapezius and pectoralis muscles) rather than by the rotator cuff muscles. These two exercises warm up the rotator cuffs and reduce the chance of tears. Don’t do more than 1 set to warm up, and- more importantly- make sure you do them after to warm down. Remember to keep the weight light. You can also use a band, but be aware that it’s less precise, as you can’t measure the force, so careful not to have it too tight.

 

Long term, good shoulder strength will reduce the strain put on your rotator cuff muscles. A weekly 5×5 session of behind the head shoulder press with long rest periods as well as some of the stretches shown here will dramatically reduce your chance of injury.

 

The competition is your big moment, and athletes will push through all sorts of pain to give everything they have to succeed in the event. A lot of the time it’s fine to push through some minor injuries, however this is one injury I would say that if you feel a tear, and you know you’ve injured something, stop and live to fight another day. It’s the difference between a small tear needing rest with a course of anti-inflammatories and a whole six-month ordeal requiring surgery and physiotherapy.

 

Injuries from box jumps

Little cuts and scrapes from falling on boxes or other equipment can easily be dealt with, however hamstring injuries from box jumps occur frequently. These tend to be felt worst at the top, where the hamstring meets the gluteus maximus (the butt). 

 

 

Solution

The good old pressure point ball. This is a great tool to get into the area where the biceps femoris passes beneath the gluteus maximus muscle. Sit on the floor or a box with the ball positioned underneath you, where your hamstring meet your butt and find the spot that’s most sensitive. Then hold the ball in that position to allow the muscles to relax around it. Once you feel that the area is relax, make tiny movements either side to further loosen up the area.

 

I wish you all the best on competition day. There’s nothing quite like the electric atmosphere that a CrossFit qualifier provides. The occasion and adrenaline alone will help you push yourself beyond what you thought you could previously achieve. Now that you know how to keep yourself injury free, go out there, play hard, have fun… and stretch! 

 

 

Dr. Ashley Hilton

 

References

 

  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Head injury: assessment and early management, Information to the public, What to do if someone has a head injury
  2. Williams, K., Wells, R., Carnahan, H.: Glove Attributes and Their Contribution to Force Decrement and Increased Effort in Power Grip, 2010; The Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
  3. Pope, R., Herbert R., Kirwin, J. Effects of ankle dorsiflexion range and pre-exercise calf muscle stretching on injury risk in Army recruits. 1998; Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 44: 165-177
  4. Malliaras, P., Cook, J., Kent, P. Reduced ankle dorsiflexion range may increase the risk of patellar tendon injury among volleyball players. 2006; Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Vol 9, Issue 4, Pages 304-309
  5. Kaufman, K., Brodine, S., Shaffer, R. The Effect of Foot Structure and Range of Motion on Musculoskeletal Overuse Injuries. 1999; The American Journal of Sports Medicine

 

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational and educational  purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency number immediately. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.