Potential for Serious Injury from CrossFit Training

An Overview of CrossFit

VII. Serious Injury Resulting from CrossFit

      A. What is Rhabdo?

According to opponents of CrossFit training, rhabdomyolysis is a serious danger associated with CrossFit style training (Boyle and Cook). Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially lethal systemic condition initiated by the kidneys in response to the presence of shed muscle-fiber debris in the bloodstream (CrossFit Induced Rhabdo 1). There are several causes and types of Rhabdo, classified by the underlying cause of muscle breakdown. “With CrossFit we are dealing with what is known as ‘exertional rhabdomyolysis.’ It can disable, maim, and even kill” (CrossFit Induced Rhabdo 2). This is very serious and CrossFit treats it as such. 

     B. Likelihood of Rhabdo

CrossFit’s repeated warnings of the potency of their workouts have resulted in only five cases of Rhabdo in the history of CrossFit. This means there have been five cases of exertional Rhabdo from CrossFit in eight years with thousands upon thousands of athletes doing CrossFit in an affiliate gym or in their own garage every day. The ratio of number of cases of Rhabdo compared to number of CrossFit workouts completed without incidence is extremely low. Rhabdo is one of CrossFit’s opponent’s strongest arguments and it is based on such a unique occurrence that it holds no water as a counter argument (Boyle and Cook). “CrossFit is the world’s most active and effective educators on Rhabdo awareness and has only a tiny fraction of the Rhabdo incidence rate of marathon/triathlon and other similar training methods, that’s just a fact” (Glassman - Episode 3.5).

According to Lon Kilgore, (Refer to Endnotes Table 3), there was 144 reported cases of Rhabdo in the military last year [2007]. “Seems like a fairly significant number, except that there’s 26,000 reported cases [in the general population] in the United States each year, and except for there’s 2.3 million service members…so, 144 cases out of 2.3 million, represents, like six one-thousandths of one percent” (Kilgore - Episode 3.5). Additionally, of those 144 cases, we don’t know what they were doing. Exercise is the fifth highest cause of Rhabdo, trailing viruses, trauma (crush injuries mostly), diseases, and drug overdose. [Of those 144 cases] Were they [military members] doing CrossFit, standard PT, get hit by a car, ran over by a tank…?” (Stumpf - Episode 3.5)

    C. Litigation against CrossFit

One man, Makimba Mimms, has successfully sued after a CrossFit workout on the basis of bodily harm as a result of Rhabdo. Makimba Mimms was at the time an Information Systems Technician 1st Class in the United States Marines for eleven years (Mitchell). Mimms did a workout of his own, then a CrossFit Kids  workout, then drank excessive quantities of alcohol. There is some controversy surrounding the exact order of those activities, but that is unimportant. The basic truth is that Mimms didn’t contract Rhabdo strictly from CrossFit. In the lawsuit, the listed defendants only included CrossFit Ruthless (a CrossFit affiliate gym), Manassas World Gym, and Ruthless trainer Javier Lopez. There is speculation that Mimm’s lawyers didn’t name CrossFit itself or Greg Glassman as a defendant because this would invite expert testimony as part of the defense. This testimony from Greg Glassman, Mark Rippetoe, and other CrossFit experts would make it plainly obvious that it was virtually impossible to contract Rhabdo from this CrossFit Kids workout.