Response to "CrossFit's Dirty Little Secret"

Original article here (captured using Evernote in case this author decides to delete this article out of embarrassment, which I think he should)  Read that article first please.

This article is getting a lot of attention lately. I've already had three members ask me about it. Here's what you need to know. 

1.) While a real concern, Rhabdomyolysis is not nearly as common in CrossFit as the author would like you to think. Consider this stat; Every year the New York City Marathon has around 40,000 finishers, and a few cases of rhabdo each year. Here's an example of one such case. has far more than that many people coming the mainsite webpage every day. If CrossFit had the Rhabdo incidence rate of marathons, people would be dying daily! Where are all the bodies??

The study the author uses here; "[Rhabdo is] so rare that one study reported the overall annual incidence of rhabdomyolysis to be 0.06%."  is actually data reported from the US Military several years ago. Interesting, this number doesn't clarify if these cases of Rhabdo are exertional, heat-related, crush injuries, etc. This means that only six out of every 10,000 people had some form of rhabdo. And remember, the sample group for that report are people that routine jump out of airplanes, climb up and down mountains in 110+ degree heat, and go through grueling workouts....not a group of people in a CrossFit gym with individually tailored workouts, (hopefully) adequate hydration, excellent nutrition (think of the groceries you eat vs. MREs the military guys have), etc.

2.)  If your coach is worth his/her salt at all, you will be largely protected from Rhabdo to begin with! Read that article again. How was the participant introduced to CrossFit? That is nothing like how we do it at our gym. Do we have people do 100's of reps on their first day? Or do we have an Initial Consultation program? What about a CrossFit Prep Course to develop people's abilities and capacity? How about coaches who have repeatedly said that we care far more about your quality of movement than we do about your quantity of movement? How often we talk about how not all CrossFit affiliates are created equal (or all coaches)?? And about how important it is to know a LOT about what you're doing every day in our workouts? Finally, how about programming to not combine or double up on similar movement patterns like the article suggests happened??

I have stopped people halfway through a workout. I have ordered people to change their weights. I have instructed athletes on how to perform a different movement partway through a WOD in order to ensure they get a proper and safe workout.  This is part of preventing Rhabdo.

UPDATE: Here's a link that I was sent yesterday. Bad coaching isn't limited to just fitness training or CrossFit.  

3.) If you have ever been at an elevated risk of Rhabdomyolysis, your coach would have talked with you about it. Most at risk for Rhabdo are those athletes who are returning to physical training following a lay off of some kind. For example, an athlete who had to undergo surgery on her knee and was forced to take 5 months off from intense workouts. This athlete would possess the mindset and determination to push themselves, and probably also a little bit of extra motivation to regain their pre-surgery capacity; but unfortunately their body is no longer in the physical condition required to handle a workout intensity that is similar to their pre-surgery levels. That requires a ramp-up, an incremental increase in the amount of volume, intensity and loading during workouts. This ramp up is what we as coaches do for you. Also, if we've had any concern for you regarding an elevated risk of Rhabdo, we would have had a conversation with you before that workout even started. Remember how we always say we "are focused on building very cerebral athletes"? This knowledge is part of your training as much as learning how to squat is.

4.) CrossFit is one of the leading educators of Rhabdo. They are the most active and effective educators regarding Rhabdo awareness. Not because of an inordinate amount of cases, but because of the seriousness of the condition. New York City Marathon doesn't talk about Rhabdo the way CrossFit does. The military doesn't instruct their PT (Physical Training) participants OR (trainers!) about Rhabdo. 

Also, Uncle Rhabdo isn't cavalier or mocking kidney failure any more than Smokey the Bear is cavalier or mocking the destruction caused by forest fires. 

5.) This article is very poorly written. Using emotionally laced wording like "her beautiful, sculpted arms feel like poorly set bowls of JELL-O® on the way home" is simply a cheap writing technique. It's the opposite of logical, straight forward, and factual. 

Here's another one; " Rhabdomyolysis isn't a common condition, yet it’s so commonly encountered in CrossFit that they have a cartoon about it,nonchalantly casting humor on something that should never happen."  Clearly this author does not know what he is talking about regarding how CrossFit addresses this issue.


6.)  For you, there is FAR less risk from Rhabdo then there is from diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc. Not to mention that real everyday life is dangerous to; at least the CrossFit gym is an extremely calculated risk.


Thanks for reading, 

-Coach Joey


Additional reading / sources

CrossFit Induced Rhabdo 

Why Do People Hate CrossFit? 

CrossFit Radio Special 3.5 - Addressing the Boyle Rant