In the previous post we spoke about the risk of injury to your lower back, knees and wrists due to the myriad of exercises that CrossFit athletes perform. In this post, we’ll talk about the remaining two: shoulders and elbows.
We’ve decided to pair these final two in their own article because they seem to make up the majority of CrossFit injuries. It’s interesting that both are joints and both are essential to gaining full range of motion in the Olympic lifts that create the framework for CrossFit training.
By far, shoulder injuries seem to be the most common injury for CrossFit athletes and thus it deserves a lot of time and attention to make sure that you understand what is going on when the shoulder moves.
As far as bones, the shoulder is made up of two: the humerus and the scapula (or shoulder blade). The shoulder joint is softly cushioned and stabilized with a thick bed of cartilage that protects the bones as they move around in a ball and socket joint. As the joint itself is rather shallow and weak, it must be properly cared for.
The shoulder blade is home to four smaller muscles that fuse together and make what is referred to as the rotator cuff. If you were to look at the rotator cuff you would see a neat little coming together of the bones, muscles and tendons to provide support and strength for your shoulder. A good, healthy shoulder is one that has a high degree of strength as well as a full range of motion. Some people have strong shoulder muscles. Others have great flexibility. The ideal is to pair the two.
It’s not uncommon to see athletes walking through the gym, rotating one shoulder and vigorously massaging the muscles with the other hand. It often starts as a weakness or a tweak that creeps up when doing overhead lifts or an extended amount of pull-ups that the weakness and fatigue will appear. Shoulder injuries should NOT be taken lightly. There is too much at stake to let the injuries go untreated. Get help at Happy Physio!
Of all the most common CrossFit injuries, perhaps the one that might surprise someone is an elbow injury. For most CrossFit athletes, elbow pains appear when you are in the front rack position, preparing for a lift such as front squats, power cleans or full cleans. Most often, elbow damage can from improper positioning of the bar as well as over tension.
Elbow injuries can be tricky because, while it may be easy to push through the pain in other areas, the elbow is strategically placed to make lifting almost impossible without full range of (painless) motion. Considering there are over twenty muscles that make up the elbow joint, it is a small joint that provides the pathway for skilled, precise movement.
For many athletes, elbow pain is associated with the term “tennis below” and simply comes from overusing the muscles in the elbow. Straining the muscles around the elbow (think biceps and triceps) can also cause an injury to the elbow. Straining any of these muscles can lead to an extended period of discomfort in your elbow. It’s best to sit out the injury and give your body time to heal.
With all of this risk of injury, it might seem that CrossFit has a greater tendency for harm than other forms of exercise or sport. Perhaps this is true with any sport. Runners are at a higher risk for shin splints. Baseball players will undoubtedly experience tennis elbow. Has anyone ever met an avid basketball player that didn’t sprain his or her ankle? Even bowling fanatics will likely develop tendonitis.
While all of these injuries can be prevented, there is no 100% foolproof training plan that guarantees health and safety. Like any extreme sport, caution and common sense go a long way, especially in CrossFit!
In our next article we’ll discuss various treatment options for CrossFit injuries.
Call Happy Physio today on (08) 9272 7359 if you would like expert help with your rehabilitation.