“Severe injuries” in CrossFit are not common, but pain/discomfort is a common occurrence. The main three areas of discomfort that occur are in the shoulder(s), knee(s), and the low back.
Pinch/pain in the front of the shoulder
It is very common in CrossFit for pain to occur in the front of the shoulder when reaching overhead, including with gymnastics skills on the bar and all pressing motions.
Everything we do in CrossFit with our arms require our rotator cuff to fire to stabilize the shoulder, especially with kipping motions, overhead presses, and Olympic lifts. Because of this, the rotator cuff eventually gets tight. When this tightness occurs, the shoulder joint cannot move properly, causing other muscles to compensate.
Eventually, this results in a pinch pain on the front of the shoulder.
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Pain in the knee, either front or inside
Squats, lunges, box jumps, and rowing, just to name a few, all involve the quadriceps.
Quick anatomy lesson…the quadriceps tendon crosses over the front of the knee and the IT band overlaps the lateral quadriceps. When these areas become tight, increased pressure is put on the knee, especially when in a squat position.
Along with this, part of the quadriceps also crosses the front of the hip, which can cause pain in the knee when performing lunges, specifically in the back knee.
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Back pain following deadlifts or Olympic lifts
Back pain following lifting can occur for a couple of reasons.
Most commonly, the low back flares up due to improper mechanics when standing up. This causes the low back muscles to fire more than they are intended to. Over repetition, they become tight, strained, and painful.
The other common cause occurs when using good form. With proper form of deadlifts and Olympic lifting, we still use are spinal stabilizers to maintain good trunk position. As the weight on the bar increases, our muscles have to fire harder to maintain good control. This can result in a muscle strain and resultant pain.