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Impact of CrossFit-Related Spinal Injuries

Hopkins, Benjamin S. BSc*; Cloney, Michael B. MD, MPH; Kesavabhotla, Kartik MD; Yamaguchi, Jonathon BSc*; Smith, Zachary A. MD; Koski, Tyler R. MD; Hsu, Wellington K. MD; Dahdaleh, Nader S. MD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: November 2019 - Volume 29 - Issue 6 - p 482–485
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000553
Original Research

Introduction: Exercise-related injuries (ERIs) are a common cause of nonfatal emergency department and hospital visits. CrossFit is a high-intensity workout regimen whose popularity has grown rapidly. However, ERIs due to CrossFit remained under investigated.

Methods: All patients who presented to the main hospital at a major academic center complaining of an injury sustained performing CrossFit between June 2010 and June 2016 were identified. Injuries were classified by anatomical location (eg, knee, spine). For patients with spinal injuries, data were collected including age, sex, body mass index (BMI), CrossFit experience level, symptom duration, type of symptoms, type of clinic presentation, cause of injury, objective neurological examination findings, imaging type, number of clinic visits, and treatments prescribed.

Results: Four hundred ninety-eight patients with 523 CrossFit-related injuries were identified. Spine injuries were the most common injuries identified, accounting for 20.9%. Among spine injuries, the most common location of injury was the lumbar spine (83.1%). Average symptom duration was 6.4 months ± 15.1, and radicular complaints were the most common symptom (53%). A total of 30 (32%) patients had positive findings on neurologic examination. Six patients (6.7%) required surgical intervention for treatment after failing an average of 9.66 months of conservative treatment. There was no difference in age, sex, BMI, or duration of symptoms of patients requiring surgery with those who did not.

Conclusions: CrossFit is a popular, high-intensity style workout with the potential to injure its participants. Spine injuries were the most common type of injury observed and frequently required surgical intervention.

*Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois;

Departments of Neurological Surgery; and

Orthopedic Surgery, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Corresponding Author: Nader S. Dahdaleh, MD, NMH/Arkes Family Pavilion Suite 2210, 676 N Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611 (

This abstract has been submitted and accepted as an oral presentation to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Spine Summit, March 8, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada. This manuscript has been previously submitted for publication Spine.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received December 13, 2016

Accepted July 18, 2017

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