I Got Injured at CrossFit, What Do I Do? (5 Steps)

Written By Charleh Knighton  |  Recovery 

If you are someone who does CrossFit or really any other form of fitness and you've gotten injured, we're sorry. But the good news is that this article is going to help you get better; we have five steps that we want you to take that are gonna help you get over or get through your injury. 

For today's article, I'm joined by Dr. Joe Camoratto, and WODprep's head coach Dr. CJ DePalma. They are here to drop some knowledge bombs on us about how to get you through your injury.

Step one: don't panic

Okay, injury is very common; it happens to all of us. We've all been there; it's probably going to happen again in your life. We know that it's gonna get better. 

The body is really good at getting better, and you know the situation will improve over time. So how you react to the initial situation can definitely play a big role in how you respond to it, right?

If you're panicked and scared, we know that your pain levels can increase because we know pain has many factors, and your belief patterns have played a big role in it.

Okay, so we don't want to panic, right? We want to understand that injury is common. Pain is also very common, right? Everyone has pain at some point in life, and 99% of the time, it goes away in six to eight weeks.

Some injuries we might get inside a CrossFit gym could linger a little longer, but don't panic. For example, I'm doing some push jerks. I hear a massive crunch on my left shoulder, and it feels a little weird.

Panicking would be, having a big, big emotional response. Going right to the emergency room for something that isn't that serious. That overreaction to pops, crunches etc, most of the time, isn't that serious. 

If we look at the true numbers behind it. Usually, the severity of it is relatively low on the spectrum of small injury to large injury. I mean, unless your arm is dangling by a small vein, disconnected from the body, blood is feeling everywhere. Chances are, it's not that serious of an injury, perhaps. But either way, the first thing that we should do is take a deep breath, and don't panic. 

Step two: assess the situation

Assessing the situation is taking a step back and saying:

"Is there anything hanging off of me? Do I have blunt force trauma? Did I drop something on myself? Do I have a joint pointing in the direction that it shouldn't? Any severe loss of range of motion?" 

These are the things that we usually look for that very rarely happen. So taking a step back, essentially assessing the situation and seeing where to go from here.

Okay, so let's say that in this hypothetical situation, I put that bar overhead, and something feels weird. I feel the crunch, I bail, and the bars hits the ground. I'm taking deep breaths; I'm still feeling some lingering shoulder pain. I'm trying not to panic, what would assessing the situation look like?

Assessing the situation would look like everything's intact. I don't have any severe pain going through a range of motion assessment to see. Can I move? Is there anything that doesn't feel right to me, and then kind of going back and saying, I think that I can continue or not sure?

The chances of you having true trauma in a CrossFit gym, maybe if you fell from a 15 foot rope that could be different, but true trauma from a barbell lift is pretty low. So once we've not panicked, we've assess the situation.

Step three: decide based on our assessment, what you do next 

Now we have to decide, based on our assessment, what we do next. We don't want to go into this complete state of rest. That's what the most common advice is, during injury from most medical professionals, because it's the easiest and it's the most accessible thing that you can do. 

Usually, our symptoms generally go away with time, maybe not specifically wrists. But what happens is, if we're doing nothing for an extended period of time, then when we start back to doing whatever it may be, it's going to feel bad.

Our body isn't going to be able to tolerate the activities that maybe its used to, even over a few days. So, your shoulder hurts to go overhead, and we brace it, and we don't do anything for an extended period of time. 

At no point during that time is it going to get easier to go overhead if you're not practicing or challenging that range of motion again. So what we don't want to do is rest. That term is really general; what we can do is just modify the pattern or modify the load.

How much weight are we lifting or the intensity (which a CrossFit intensity can mean speed or dynamic)?

If we keep using shoulders as the example, pressing overhead and it hurts when you do a jerk. You assess how you feels, and there is a little bit of pain, but I think it's okay; we're gonna try it again. 

That's totally okay. Right, you can make that call on your own.

Do it again, doesn't feel comfortable. Alright, so a few things have to happen. Now, we've done it a couple times, and it's not pretty uncomfortable; you're not confident doing the activity, right?

Usually, the load and then intensity, intensity, and load are similar terms, depending on who defines them. So we modify those things first. If it still doesn't feel too good, then we keep working our way down the ladder; what we do next is to reduce the weight.

Maybe we've changed in the middle of a workout. We went from aggressive push jerks at a heavy weight to now press, lightening the load and doing some push press, maybe even strict press. 

What happens if it's still feeling weird?

So then we want to if we're in the workout, then at that point, we would probably change the movement pattern. We would go to a push up, or something like that, or maybe just an overhead hold or something to that effect. 

What we would do from something that's more long-standing, if we have time to make changes, is something that's been lingering around, usually, we would change the frequency at which we're doing it.

So often we're challenging the movement, either we do it maybe a little bit more really light as a warm up, or we kind of take it away for a short amount of time to give the body a chance to, to calm down, right? 

Because it could just be the pattern, right?

It hurts when you just go overhead. We're not going to rest, we're still going to use the 75% of the body that works. You know, so we just modified the specific pattern, and then we keep training as normal everywhere else. That's the key because we have a big term, and you can help me make it smaller.

This is called inter-regional dependence. 

This means that when we stay active in other body regions, we have an improved healing response time, or heal a relative word and improve symptom response time in the affected joint or the affected region. 

Here's how you explain it.

If you have a "booboo", on your shoulder, you can still exercise with your legs and another shoulder. You still have a lot of other places you can exercise. A lot of people, used to get a tweaky shoulder every once in a while, and I would just not work out for a few days, I do nothing. 

And it's so funny because when I would come back, everything would hurt not just my shoulder because I hadn't done anything for a long time. 

In summary, make sure you keep moving even if you're not; let's say hammering that one shoulder that might be nagging you. You can probably reduce the load, reduce the range of motion, things like that reduce the speed or intensity that you're doing things, but you can also still be doing other things, chances are you can probably still back squat or front squat. 

Step four: stay consistent and confident in your body

Your body is more robust and resilient than you might think. We were made to evolve and handle a lot of things such as football, rugby, lifting weights. All of these things take a large amount of stress on the body.

Once you've assessed the situation, you haven't panicked and you've made the modifications with yourself or a coach, stay consistent, stay confident there is going to be time during this that you're just going to have to pump the brakes.

And as long as you pump the brakes and you do the things that you can tolerate and are within your scope, time is on your side. Nature is mental; you will heal and feel a lot better if you stay consistent and confident in the process.

So in terms of applying consistency and confidence for example: I don't just bail on working out for weeks or months or a year because I have a bad shoulder?

But I also stay confident knowing that, that in actually exercising and again, I'm just gonna keep going back to the shoulder in making sure that I continue to move my shoulder. I'm confident knowing that time eventually will cause it to heal.

So as long as we're stressing an area, and it doesn't even have to be with an overhead pattern. If you're having that problem, you stressing the shoulder in other movement patterns, the shoulder will still evolve.

All these things will still acclimate and cause adaptation. At the shoulder with that adaptation with completed workouts where you aren't hurting at the very end of it, that builds the confidence up. That consistency will be key and just taking small steps forward.

Step five: check your ego at the door

What that means is really about taking steps back from what we want to do. We'll keep with the shoulder injury and the heavy jerks as the example. Heavy jerks hurt, so we have to take steps down. This is the hardest thing to do, especially for a higher-level athlete or someone who's very competitive.

I'm an RX athlete, and I'm gonna do the RX weight at the RX, so continuing to do the RX is okay. It's like we said, you're gonna get better because the body heals itself in a very short amount of time; it's biologically designed to do that. But sometimes, we have to take steps back to give it a chance.

We'll talk about how pain plays a role in that if every time we train, we work into high amounts of pain, then we're basically restarting the clock. We're not re-injuring ourselves; think of it as just starting over from the healing process.

So every time we work into high amounts of pain, we have to get it to come back down. We have to restart this recovery process.

But when we're working into low amounts of pain, that's just enough stress to create adaptation within the joint or the area of the body that might be affected. So we want to, we want to hit what we call a minimum effective dose. A lot of people listening would have heard that term when it comes to strength training, right?

If I'm trying to build my biceps, I don't want to go grab a 5lb dumbbell and do three bicep curls. And then say:

"Coach, I do bicep curls every single day, and they never get any bigger, right?"

We need to have a minimum effective dose to see the gains we're looking for. In this case, the gains are helping us rehabilitate from an injury.

We do that for a couple of reasons. If we've reached this minimum effective dose because it improves our ability to create adaptation within the tissue.

What it also does, is it improves our tolerance to the movement pattern. So if we avoid pressing overhead or pressing overhead, heavy, no point where we're just going to be able to do it sporadically, we have to progress and build to that.

Hypothetical, our theory is that we're teaching ourselves to readapt to the movement pattern because once we have pain. Our body is designed to be sensitive to that movement pattern. That's how it protects our bodies and wants to prevent us from doing the thing that makes us feel bad. We don't want that.

So to get it to start working its way down, we have to work into that discomfort. And if we avoid the discomfort completely, then nothing happens.

To bring it back to leaving your ego at the door, you want to drop 300lbs at some point, and if that hurts, we go to 270lbs. Still painful, then we go to 240lbs. Still painful, you got to 200lbs, and so on until it feels ok. 

In summary:

These are five really effective steps that are going to help you recover from injury. So whether you just got an injury now, or you're someone that tends to have these nagging things pop up, or maybe you're a coach, maybe you're someone who's expecting to get injured when you do CrossFit.

I wouldn't go in with that expectations, but everyone gets injured; we all get injured at some point. 

Leave a comment below to let us know which of the five steps you struggle with the most. Is that leaving your ego at the door? Is it panic? What is it? Leave that in the comments below, and we will see you in the next article.

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