In CrossFit

May 22, 2013

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Researchers at Ohio State University refuse further comment on CrossFit study amidst allegations of inaccurate data from the study’s own coordinator.

A few weeks ago, I learned that researchers affiliated with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) had published a study on CrossFit’s efficacy in the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The study—CrossFit-Based High-Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition—was conducted by Michael Smith, Ph.D., a then-Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State University working under Steven Devor, Ph.D. and Fellow of the ACSM.

Much of the study struck me as odd. Curious, I turned to CrossFit’s chief scientist, Dr. Jeff Glassman, who wrote a formal, comprehensive response to the study. The response, which makes numerous claims about the validity and rigor of Dr. Smith’s paper, focuses heavily on this particular section:

“Out of the original 54 participants, a total of 43 (23 males, 20 females) fully completed the training program and returned for follow up testing. 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.”

What is “overuse or injury”? The study does not define what it means by the term “overuse.” The study also does not detail what specific cases of “overuse or injury” the subjects cited, what caused them, whether the cases were pre-existing conditions, or how long the subjects experienced “overuse or injury.”

Furthermore, the study was “blind,” meaning the researchers in the lab were only able to identify participants by a single number. If the 11 subjects who failed to show up for the test-out were de-identified in this way (and obviously not present at the Ohio State lab), how could Dr. Smith collect any data on the reason for their absence?

Chelsea Rankin, a member of CrossFit 614, volunteered to be the study coordinator for Dr. Smith. During our conversation, I asked Rankin how Dr. Smith could have gathered data on why the 11 didn’t show up to the lab.

Rankin gave me her own opinion on Dr. Smith’s work: “I did all the data collection for the study, and I know every person who didn’t re-test. It was easy to figure out they weren’t injured. This data is inaccurate. Those individuals were not injured, and that wasn’t the reason they didn't test out. To me this questions the validity of the research.”

Luckily, the corresponding author, Dr. Devor, consented to a recorded phone interview, the full transcript of which is available here. More problems became apparent during our conversation. When I asked him about the collection of data from the 11 participants who did not re-test, Dr. Devor did not seem confident in answering.

At the end of our interview, Dr. Devor suggested that I speak with Dr. Smith, whom he insisted would be able to answer all my questions. He even offered to help put me in touch with him. To my surprise, I received an email from Dr. Devor two days later. It contained the following line: “I have spoken with Dr. Smith at Gonzaga University. We will have no further comment on our Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) CrossFit publication.”

In two days, Dr. Devor had gone from conceding that I had a legitimate question and assuring me that he would help answer it to defending his apparently fraudulent data solely on the merit and authority of the journal in which it was published.

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32 Comments on “NSCA “CrossFit Study” Fraud?”

1

wrote …

I DID NOT READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE, BUT IN THE ABSTRACT OF THE STUDY SHOWS BENEFICIALS RESULTS IN THE INDIVUDUALS FOR DOOING CROSSFIT.
http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/publishahead/Crossfit_based_high_intensity_power_training.97874.aspx

2

wrote …

What does the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have to do with a National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research article? Am I missing something? Maybe some editorial work needed here.
With respect to the JSCR article: if the validity of the research is in question, then it would certainly be appropriate to contact the Corresponding Author. If full disclosure is not made, then a Letter to the Editor-in-Chief of JSCR would certainly be appropriate. Although JSCR does not have the highest impact factor in the exercise and sports science field, it does have a thorough peer review process and is a high quality journal for practitioners; however, that does not mean mistakes were not made in one or more areas of the research.
Regardless, the CF Community needs to be a little less sensitive... afterall, CF-related research is going to continue along with the growth of the community... that's a good thing.

3

wrote …

My first reaction to this article is that people are overlooking the main result - Crossfit improves important measures of health! - and focusing on the negative - the injuries, or alleged injuries. If you were to look at the injury rates of individuals performing ANY training program that would result in significant improvements in measures of health you would see similar injury rates or HIGHER. The injury rates of runners is about 66.7% per year (66.7%>>16%). The fact of that matter is that in order to improve certain measures of health (VO2max, body composition) you need to train at or above a certain threshold in order to induce changes in your body. Training at a higher intensity does increase your risk of injury but this is true for any activity or training method (I'm not going to bother to cite any references because this statement is common sense). So you can do step aerobics as much as you want at about a 40% intensity level and be injury free BUT you will most likely not see any significant (p

4

wrote …

My girlfriend and I were apart of that study. There were a lot of inputs. Test ins, test outs, blood work, a workout log, a diet log, both were basically a point system score sheet. I can only speak for myself but during my VO2 max test out the lab assistant and Dr. Smith were both quite surprised by the drastic changes in our numbers. In 10 weeks I personally went from a score of 45 to 54. One gentleman finished off a years quest to lose 100 lbs during the challenge. The whole experience in our gym was super positive. It was a fantastic group experiment so much so that we did it again this year minus the bod pod and VO2 max tests.

I personally hope more studies like this are done. But instead of absolute clinical data, which there was a tremendous amount of jaw dropping results in our group, there should be QA style interviews done at the end. Asking how this has changed the way we perceive health, diet, our bodies etc... This was life changing stuff for some folks in our group and our Facebook page was full of great questions and people providing great answers on a daily basis. We were constantly asking each other how was this working or what kind of results were getting from certain foods.

I can't say what the researchers were looking for in their numbers but I know a lot life changing habits and knowledge was absorbed by this group. It's the type of thing the data can't measure.

I wish CrossFit HQ would work with outside groups to help standardize some of these tests or at least the rigor required to get both the quantities and qualities data that can be learned from cool opportunities like this.

5

Russell Berger wrote …

Nick Gist,

The corresponding author of this paper, Steven Devor, is a Fellow in the ACSM. The NSCA simply published the paper. Great idea to write the JSCR editor, but seeing as how he was also the author of the CHAMP paper, and has yet to respond to Jeff Glassman's response to his own work, I doubt we will hear much from him.

I disagree with you that this should have been overlooked in an attempt to appear "less sensitive". The owner of the Affiliate in which this study was conducted is essentially being accused of injuring 16% of his clients. He learned about the publication of this study when non-CrossFit gyms in his area began circulating the study on social media to harm his reputation. If this data is fraudulent, this was not a victimless crime. If appearing "less sensitive" means looking the other way when you discover unethical behavior, you can keep it.

6

wrote …

Really nice! Great article!

7

wrote …

Russell Berger,

Most of the academicians in the exercise science field are ACSM Fellows... that does not mean ACSM produced nor endorses this research.

Your efforts with the Corresponding Author are certainly worthy of print, and the phone transcript shows he is not as familiar with his student's paper as he should have been.

8

Russell, this is a really good write-up of a very valid concern. And while I love the idea of controlled science in the CrossFit world - been trying to do some myself - this sort of dancing around the issue is a big problem. Scientific fraud is rampant these days, ([probably) because publication is 1) very challenging and 2) necessary for advancement in academic positions.

I might, if I may, highlight two points about academic publishing and your article here: 1) your article about this fraud in the CFJ is preaching to the choir. We all know that while there is an inherent risk in a program that actually produces results, that CrossFit when done correctly, coached properly, etc is about as safe as any other program on the market. We know that. 2) In academics it is very common for authors unrelated to a publication to publish a critique/commentary in either the same journal or another ranked tier journal. This happens in my field - evolutionary science and neuroscience - quite frequently. So you need not rely on the authors to admit and publish a retraction; why not take your article here and ramp it up as an editorial comment or critique and publish in the JCSM...? I mean setting the record straight where it was initially set wrong seems to me to be one of the most productive outcomes of this discovery.

just my 2 cents....
Keep us posted please (splatek@gmail.com)

9

wrote …

Some clarification is obviously important. I do not believe the author defined the terms "Overuse" and "Injury" but could have been quoting what the subjects responded back to him. It is possible they got injured at work or doing something in the yard and hence could not continue their training regiment. Or the fact that they already have a difficult and labor intensive job and did not want to overdo it by doing HIIT. None of this also denies the possibility that some people might have tweaked a back, sprained their knee etc.

Attrition is obviously something that happens under any training protocol or regiment. I think its difficult to discern that this is any different than any other training program. The author even cites the research on this is sparse.

Ultimate he has to explain why some people in the already small sample he has did not continue training, I do not believe the point he was making was done in malice considering his final conclusion.

10

wrote …

Russell Berger,
I'm a CF-L1 and physician in the Columbus area and became familiar with this study shortly after launching my own CrossFit-based study in March. It's understandably created an air of distrust within the CF community, which I was hoping to ameliorate with my own academic effort that attempts to evaluate the CrossFit athlete on a much broader scope. Would you be willing/able to discuss specifics?

Please feel free to contact me at CrossfitCompositeSurvey@gmail.com

11

wrote …

As a researcher in this field, I see some definite cause for concern here. The authors' inability to account for their findings regarding participants' reasons for dropping out of the study is certainly problematic. Either the study was not truly blind, or their findings are falsified. The whole "blind" thing here is odd, though. This was a repeated-measures, single sample study - there was no need for it to be blind. You use blind procedures when you have experimental and control groups, and it is important that the testers not know who was in each group, in order to avoid bias. There was only one group here, so there was no need for the study to be blind.

I have to disagree with Russell on one key point, and I am echoing Jeff Martin's comments on this. Russell describes the overall findings of the study - that CF effectively improves aerobic capacity and body composition - as "anticlimactic". Quite the contrary, this is the first publication is a respected scholarly journal that shows CF training methods are effective, and highly effective at that. There has been a lot of resistance to publishing scientific research on CF in the exercise science and strength and conditioning fields. This publication potentially opens the doors to more researchers successfully publishing studies on CF. This is a very big deal, and the overall impact of this study I believe to be positive.

It is unfortunate that the authors seemingly speculated about the reasons for participant drop-out, marring what otherwise seems to be a good study. It would not surprise me if they were pressured to insert the comments in question by the journal's reviewers. Given the predominant attitude towards CF by scholars in this field, I suspect it would be difficult to get something published that didn't at least acknowledge a potential negative side to CF training. In any case, the appropriate course of action is to contact the JSCR chief editor about the findings. Any claims of falsified data will certainly be addressed.

12

wrote …

Does anyone really think the injury rate in Crossfit is 0%? It would be the first sport in history of athletics that has no injuries associated with it. The key with injury rate is just to show that the varied and controlled aspects of Crossfit make its injury rate lower than other sports, not that the injury rate is 0%. Secondly, if you want to talk about bias, no manner how credentialed Glassman's family members are, they really can't be the chief scientific officer of his company. You don't need a PhD to see how that might affect his scientific reasoning.

13

Russell Berger wrote …

Benjamin,

Nowhere in this discussion or the content of this article has anyone stated, or even implied that CrossFit has a 0% injury rate. That would be ridiculous. I'm also going to assume you didn't read the article given that Dr. Glassman's thoughts are only a passing reference in my investigation.

Dr. Glassman is most certainly biased in his own ways, as we all are. His position as chief scientist for our company is no more unusual than it would be in any family business, and he is more than qualified given his lifetime of exposing pseudo science. Perhaps you are confusing the public and private sectors, where elected officials showing favoritism to family when they should be representing the will of the public is a problem.

My suggestion would be to critique the work Dr. Glassman has published as CrossFit's chief scientist rather that going straight for an ad hominem.

14

wrote …

IT would nice to CF-HQ fund a university study, or two... in conjunction with ACSM or NSCA PhD's to attempt to bridge this gap between academia and CF. Most university studies are conducted with limited funding and run by underpaid, overworked graduate students. Research is what put me through school as a student, and it is an exhausting endeavor. CF could be promoting their philosophy and methodology within peer-reviewed journals, helping put future exercise professionals though school (who would probably promote CF b/c of their experiences), while also achieving a collaboration that brings organization together. It is extremely easy to criticize and tear research apart. Normally the criticisms create progress and address gaps in the literature. CF may find that criticism is warranted with these research studies. But provide direction, suggestions, and promote progress. The fact remains that the ACSM and other traditional academic organizations have promoted and produced substantially beneficial research for improving health through exercise for decades. Now,the academic community is taking notice, and attempting to support the claims of CF efficacy. HELP THEM PROVE IT!

15

wrote …

I think it's important to ask the question of what is normal regarding injury rate for any s&c program. Furthermore, what injury rate is expected based on intensity (average power output per workout per s&c program) and if there is a valid relation between the variables. In other words, test the hypothesis put forth by the researchers explaining that the "injuries" were a result of intensity. These studies would be incredibly difficult to conduct for many reasons but none could ever really be correlated to crossfit because they are only testing one gyms ability to coach crossfit as opposed to the method as a whole. This known, we fall back on common sense to see that the method/sport continues to grow exponentially amidst the perception of high injury risk. Short story long, 614 should be upset at the injury percentage; they should demand retraction. However they should also expect nothing and sleep peacefully knowing they can rest their reputation on their community and it's results... Try being a biomechanically based chiropractor and you will realize ya got it good!

16

wrote …

Amazing. This study stinks like many pro-pharma studies stink that they're trying to sell drugs to more people.

The truth is their weak-in-results paradigm of low-intensity bodybuilding training is failing and they know it. As much of a sad state that it is that CF gyms will be harmed from the "study," it shows that they are threatened by the awesome results of CF that can't be beaten anywhere. Moving large loads long distances quickly has no equal on the leg press machine or with an EZ curl bar.

Just keep producing results!!!!

Great article!

17

wrote …

I don't understand the issue with the study. It spoke well of CrossFit. If you read ANY fitness study there are ALLWAYS a number of people who don't finish the study for WHATEVER reason. As a fan of CrossFit AND a NSCA-CPT*D and USAW Sport Performance Coach I'm surprised that anyone in CrossFit would not recognize the term "overuse" it means overtrained which if you are honest is VERY easy to do training the CrossFit way.

Nilo Lins

18

Russell Berger wrote …

Nilo,

It looks as though you skimmed the abstract rather than reading my article. You've recognized that drop-outs occur with every study but you seem to have missed the part where these researchers (allegedly) fabricated reasons for why those drop-outs occurred. That "data" was then used to suggest that CrossFit might not be worth the risk.

19

wrote …

As someone who works in research, I appreciate the discourse that can stem from an interesting peer-reviewed article. So, I would like to offer my own $.02, in response to both articles and some of the issues that have been discussed. I am not taking one side or the other, just hoping to add some clarity:

1. I do agree that this is not the best study in the world, but not for the reasons Russell points out (as I'll address below). I look at it in terms of selection biases and confounding, both of which were rampant in this study, affecting both internal and external validity. This implies that while crossfit (or HIPT as they call it) is associated with better physiological measures, the results and claims in the article should be taken with a grain of salt.

2. Sort of adding to point 1, correlation does not imply causation, especially when a study like this has so many inherent selection and confounding biases. For the sake of describing the sample, Dr. Smith did what every other researcher would do: Describe your original sample, your analytical sample, and reasons for discrepancy (i.e. loss to follow-up), as "cited by" those who were lost to follow-up. On the flip side, he did give too much weight to that 16% lost due to "injury or overuse" in his discussion. As a responsible researcher, he should mention the disadvantages of his intervention (in this article, Crossfit). However, due to the biases I mentioned above, I am a little disappointed that Dr. Smith implied that the injury rate could be as high as 16%; he did make a big stretch on that conclusion.

3. Dr. Devor, in his interview with Russell, did a terrible job of defending his findings. I agree, based on his interview, that his article and findings may need more critique. I will also say that I've known plenty of intelligent, competent researchers that are terrible in these situations (and seem way more aloof than Dr. Devor). However, I don't think that one interview is grounds to refute the whole study.

4.The study, in Institutional Review Board (IRB) terms, was confidential. Yes, subjects are only identified by a code number, but in reference to their data. This means that if you were to look at their data files, you wouldn't know what data came from which subject, as it is only coded with a unique ID. However, a separate "master list" is kept so as to identify code numbers associated with subjects. This ensures appropriate matching of data at follow-up AND also allows for a means to follow-up. All this is implicit in this article given they type of study and statistics used. It's a moot point mentioning the "de-identified" data issue as reasons for lack of validity.

5. Ohio State is quite the research powerhouse, bringing in millions of dollars in federal grants. So, following federal IRB guidelines is of utmost importance to a school like this. Considering this study was small (a pilot even) and non-funded, I do find it hard to believe that the researchers would have much benefit from fabricating data (the followup data), especially when it had no direct bearing to the research hypotheses.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is that the research study is not perfect, but neither are the reasons Russell provides for refuting it.

20

replied to comment from Joanne Salas

Forgot to mention...

The bigger issue that should've been discussed here is the misuse of information by the other program in the area to discredit the crossfit gym where this study was conducted. There will always be opponents to our community and methods, but the best response is outreach, education, and further scientific research (that is more rigorous and less prone to bias than Dr. Smith's). Thanks all!

21

replied to comment from Nick Gist

As a health professional certified through both ACSM and as a CF-L1 Trainer, I agree with you Nick that CF perhaps could be a little less sensitive in their concerns with 'overuse injury' reported in this article. Personally, I would argue that as CF is a 'constantly varied' exercise regime, the chance of developing an 'overuse injury' is small. CF will continue to evolve, along with (hopefully) rigorous research that will support it's scientific foundation.

22

wrote …

me: "We are excited that this study proves the validity of Crossfit as a highly effective tool for improving VO2 max and decreasing body fat (two of many possible indicators of fitness). However from a scientific and professional standpoint, we disagree with a possible implication that a percentage of the participants did not complete the program due to overuse or injury. We have requested further documentation regarding that element of the study as it was not addressed in the paper. In the meantime we agree that further research is needed before conclusions are made about how HIPT programs relate to other, potentially less effective, training programs rates of 'injury'."

Why couldn’t Crossfit HQ have responded like an actual group of professionals instead of like a schoolyard bully punching someone in the gut for making him ‘look bad’ in gym class? Maybe if HQ spent more time performing quality-control on their affiliates they could actually do something to improve the perception that Crossfit causes ‘injuries’. Instead the approach is “if we just spend our efforts attempting to silence the critics amongst the masses of people chanting ‘one more rep!!!” the problem will go away.' Crossfit and the affiliate model are not perfect. I'm not discounting the criticism of the study on the 16% narrative but the HQ approach to responding to it was piss-poor.

More Excellence, Crossfit HQ, less RRG.

23

wrote …

Number of top 4 women from 2012 who are not competing or seriously hampered in competition due to injury in the last year: 2 (50%). Oh no, a 50% injury rate!

Number of years Mikko Salo has missed competing due to injury since winning: 2 out of 3. Oh no, a 67% injury rate!

Hell, an 83.3% PARTICIPATION rate is damned impressive for a scientific study over 10 weeks. What was the participation rate in Week 5 of the Open, compared to the number of entries? And it was half the length.

There are three kinds of untruth in the world, folks: lies, damn lies, and statistics. By calling them out, you only give the authors more credit.

24

wrote …

In my assessment it is important to call out and question the negative comments in the study regarding alleged injuries among participants, for several reasons. Kudos to Russell Berger for doing so.

First and foremost, Crossfit does in fact need to be sensitive to the issue of injury. There is a huge perception out there among the exercising public that Crossfit carries too much risk and causes injury. Although the injury rate comment was just a small part of the published study, it is an important part of it. No exercise program can be considered effective if the injury rate is too high, so the injury rate should be a key consideration of any exercise program study. The apparently inaccurate comment on injuries therefore must be addressed.

Just as important as defending Crossfit is promoting scientific rigor in the first place. If published research is not scrutinized, shoddy work and dishonesty will proliferate. There must be vigorous debate and discussion and critique of problems. This is particularly true when important parts of a study are not just the result of poor design, or maybe even design flaws which are simply unavoidable given the issues being researched, but when the researchers publish comments which are either downright reckless or fraudulent. In this instance, it appears to me that the injury comments in the published research were either reckless or fraudulent. Why the heck didn't the authors just say "the reasons for participant dropout rates were not investigated?" A better approach overall would have been to actually investigate the dropouts after the testing was concluded. But at least accurately report that "we didn't investigate the reason for the dropouts" as opposed to affirmatively stating they were due to injury.

To promote scientific rigor, I urge Russell Berger to follow through and seek to have his critique published as a follow-up in the same journal (as recommended by a prior poster).

For those that think Crossfit HQ is acting as a bully and should be less sensitive, I would suggest they need to really consider their own comments. The researchers and those defending them are the ones that need to be less sensitive. If you publish scientific research, you should be prepared to have it criticized. When your results appear to be the result of reckless or fraudulent results, well then the critiques are going to sound a little more harsh.

25

wrote …

I don't see it, is there a link somewhere to Dr Glassman's comments? I'm really interested to read his response.

I think it's absolute nonsense that this is being referred to as an ACSM study because the senior author is an ACSM Fellow. I'm an ACSM Fellow, does that mean that anything I publish is an ACSM study? No, of course not. It's like there's some attempt to discredit ACSM in any way possible. It is odd that in the Methods they point out that one of the investigators is an ACSM Fellow, I've *never* seen that before.

You know what the big problem is with this study? There's no control group. The manuscript introduction positions HIPT aka CrossFit as a viable, possibly superior, alternative to HIIT, yet there is no HIIT group to compare the results against. No control group = crap science.

26

wrote …

I love it. It has the smell of junk science for sure. That being said, a reading of Crossfit Games summaries, etc... seems to provide some anecdotal evidence that (truly) elite, competitive crossfit bears increased risk of injury over that of traditional one-wod-per-day training regimens.

Somewhat relatedly, I have a standing bet for anyone that will take it: That Rich Froning at age 42 will not match Bill Grundler's performances at the same age barring some remarkable biomedical/techological developments in sport science to enable this)precisely due to the volume and intensity of work
Mr. Froning is putting forth in his 20's (and due to Mr. Grundler's start of elite, competitive training in his mid to late 30's). We'll just have to wait on this, eh?

The Crossfit Games summaries note Annie T's second herniated disk problem injury, Clever's possible shoulder joint issue, Sam Brigg's knee, Miko's problems, etc, etc... I recalling seeing a mesmerizing video of Rich Froning and Graham Holmbert from last year (?) doing like 3 WODS before lunch and that was after running the 6am class, etc.. and then engaging in specialized lifting and skill work afterward. To me, that bears little semblance to the traditional (?) WOD of the day and this type of volume is typically associated with increased risk of injury. I wish someone would look at elite, competitive crossfitters for want of a better term) versus average Joe Wodkillas in terms of risk of injury.

Again, great work on this article. Good researchers defend their positions with data and the data appears to be sorely (pardon the expression) lacking.

27

wrote …

After reading the original study, Dr. Glassman's review, Russell's comments and the phone conversation, my feelings are as follows:

While the study may have had it's biases, design flaws and other short comings, Cross Fit is going to have difficulty gaining acceptance in the scientific community if its representatives continue to exhibit what has become their hallmark lack of tact and diplomacy. I think this all starts at the top and that Mr. Glassman, while he has many great ideas and has contributed greatly to the fitness arena, has created a culture that has at times alienated itself from those with other ideas and approaches. Being that Cross Fit developed as a "multi-modal" form of training, borrowing from many disciplines, it's ironic that the Cross Fit brass - once the iconoclasts of fitness - have now become entrenched in their own dogma and conventions and refuse to look outside their own box (pun intended).

Russell, I understand and appreciate your loyalty and dedication, but perhaps Drs. Smith and Devon shut the proverbial door in your face because they sensed (as do I) that you had already made up your own mind and were not there for answers, but to make a statement. Patience is not only a virtue, but its own reward, my friend. Sometimes the harder you push, the longer it takes.

Present your case.
Ask questions that are aimed at gaining a better understanding and not aimed at attacking someone (consider the difference).
Keep an truly open mind.
Be gracious.
And the truth will come out.

Thanks for your time!

28

wrote …

I must agree with some posters that Crossfit's method and tone of critique regarding the apparently poorly run study seems overly sensitive, and frankly unnecessary, given the mass popularity of the movement.

I think a summary of the discussion with OSU researcher would have taken more a more professional "tone" than the printing of the transcript- although, I must admit, it was fun reading - and this journal does, thankfully, "go for" entertainment as well as educational value - unlike the very stuffy
peer-reviewed journals.

Hasn't Coach Glassman stated that the relatively new "professional"/competitive stuff is different than the originally-conceived fitness regimen? I think I saw him reference this type of notion in a Games video where he admires what the Games have become, but states his preference for simply being in the box and watching people get fit.

Crossfit would seem to benefit from "owning" the fact that doing 11 WODS over three days (pardon if I am off a WOD or two) might result in some injuries or that some novices might get injured (if not due to their own silliness - disclosure here - I would not listen when my early on experience with "Randy" was nearly injurious based on my hubris - I did alot of Oly lifting in the mid 90's).

P.S. Am I now considered more fit at age 48 than Annie T. if she can barely do a single air-squat due to disc herniation? (I hear she's better thank goodness). Competive/Professional level Crossfit is a wonderful experiment. Longitudinal data, whether simply observational in nature or via more formal studies , will be a great teacher.

29

wrote …

I have to say this, but it is quite geeky:

I think any study that randomnly assigns novice fitness volunteers to a study looking at high versus low intensity paradigms is going to find an inflated injury rate for modalities like Crossfit that are not ecologically expeienced.

That is, novice Crossfiter's generally ain't yo mamma's novices!! In other words, folks who have contemplated starting Crossfit are NOT from the same "population" as those who walk into the Cosmopolitan "Ladies" gym that uses all Nautilus equipment and does water Jazzercise. I'd be willing to bet that the reality is is that novice Crossfitters are far more likely to be former athletes who are more ready cognitively and proprioceptively (!) than frank novices and who "in the real world" will not experience frequent injuries.

30

wrote …

After reading the article I see a few interpretation biases in this post.

1. The study was not blinded. It was de-IDed. This is a requirement by the IRB in pretty much every research that involves human beings (if not all). This is research ethics, so it is actually "less possible" to fabricate re-test data based on subjects. This renders moot the point that the researchers would not be able to identify the dropouts and later contact them to determine any cause for dropping out.

2. The drop out was self-reported. If the researchers did contact the subjects and asked for a reason, they might have said "I was sore", which could lead to a wide interpretation of "overuse". It is broad, but the way it is reported, quite honestly, that's how it should be interpreted: self-reported, broad, not accurate.

3. The article used CrossFit as a method of intervention to study certain variables. Although one might be inclined to infer, correlation does not mean causation, therefore "injury or overuse" is not the same as "injury or overuse caused by CrossFit". As we all can hear on the interview, they have not associated the injuries with CrossFit. Although it is possible to infer that, it is not directly stated association.

4. Public claims of fraud on the reputation of two PhD's and a journal might have serious repercussions if not properly backed by evidence. You might feel in your right to defend your community claiming that CrossFit's image has been besmirched, but what you are doing is essentially the same. One might see this as zealotry. For example, it's crossed my mind to do research on CrossFit, but seeing how these two researchers are being hunted down for a broad, allegedly unclear and fraudulent, report of scientific data, I'm not so sure I'd like to dedicate time and resources for more research on this matter, and I'm sure I'm not the only academic having these thoughts. On the other hand, it might be that from all this there will be more research to determine a real association between CrossFit and injuries (although I am pretty sure that anything reported in that matter would cause more problems given what has already happened).

5. Say the paper gets retracted, or the court finds that this kind of study report is grounds for financial restitution, or both, it will be another case of a private enterprise creating a gap between itself and peer-reviewed science. I can't see anyone else risking their careers to study CrossFit if there is a possibility that they might get prosecuted for reporting data. Is it good/bad for CrossFit? I don't know and frankly, I don't really care. I'm not getting anything out of it. As scientists, we have a duty to the people and the truthfulness in our reports, but we are not required to put ourselves on the line if it might hurt us, like anyone else.

I sincerely hope this comes to a conclusion. The bare least they can do is open the research files and review it all, but, quite honestly, this will probably end in either of two ways: (i) the paper will be corrected and IF solid proof is established that 614 lost clientele due to this findings, then financial compensation might come into play; (ii) the researchers will prove that the data is solid and IF they decide that their reputation has suffered, CrossFit might suffer the blow back. There's always two edges the public allegations' sword.

31

replied to comment from Randall Rattan

" I'd be willing to bet that the reality is is that novice Crossfitters are far more likely to be former athletes who are more ready cognitively and proprioceptively (!) than frank novices and who "in the real world" will not experience frequent injuries."

How would you know that? There's never been any research done on that, ever.

32

wrote …

I have been the lead clinical coordinator for 11 US IDE FDA trials. While the data collection in this study appears flawed. Second, I personally prefer a double-blinded study with a control group of equal demographics and a large "n". Further validity could be obtained from having standard inclusion and exclusion criteria along with long term follow up. Any intelligent individual who understands scientific literature would see the obvious errors in this study. But, here is the beauty in research. It can be redone, it could be recreated. A good scientist records his results and methods in such a way it can be replicated. Another study can and should be performed on the topic, with the ability to withstand vigorous criticism. A study with a large cohort. If one would like to design such a study, they should talk to Joanne Salas above. She is obviously an expert in this area. I mean this with all sincerity.

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