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What have we learned from the Kevin Ogar tragedy

I just finished ‘The Story of the Human Body” by Daniel Lieberman. I highly recommend it. By finishing the book you are rewarded with this gem of a quote.

“Just as this is not the best of all possible worlds, your body is not the best of all possible bodies. But its the only one you’ll ever have and its worth enjoying, nurturing, and protecting. The human body’s past was molded by the survival of the fitter but your body’s future depends upon how you use it.”– Daniel Liberman

with that said…

If you haven’t heard yet, Kevin Ogar, a crossfit coach, severed his spine during a competition two weeks ago. This is an absolute tragedy. But when such an event pops up, it gives us the chance to ask some questions, its unfortunate that it has to be at the expense of someones health. But similar to school shootings, you find people on opposite ends of the spectrum, arguing about efficacy. In this case, we have those quickly to defend Crossfit. I read articles that stated, despite this being a Crossfit competition, a crossfit athlete, and crossfit programming that this is not a Crossfit issue (point your fingers elsewhere!). Eerily reads similar to claims that despite being a school shooting, lets not talk about guns. Grow up.

How did this happen?

During the OC Throwdown the workout lineup looked like(over the course of a weekend):

WOD 1:  The NFL Combine
WOD 2: Squat Cleans and Handstand Push ups with Handstand Walks
WOD 3: 3 Mile Run
WOD 4: Touch and Go Snatch, 3 Position Clean and Jerk, Back squat
WOD 5: Overhead Squat, Muscle Ups, Wall Balls, Double Unders, Deadlift, Power Snatch

The injury occurred during WOD #4. And many believe it may have been an injury accrued during WOD #3 in which weighted running may have created some fatigue/primer injury. The Touch and Go Snatch  (not recommended during heavy sets) is what finally did him in.

Blaming the Athlete

To take heat off of themselves, coaches, trainers, and the like often point the finger at the client/athlete. If they get injured its their fault, they should have known better. I’ve seen this a hundred times. Its denial. But, with that said, the victim does need to take some responsibility, and part of that is not stopping when the signs creep up. If it is true that a few miles of weighted running did infact cause some sort of primer injury only setting Ogar up for further injury. Then he should have listened to his body and stopped.

Lesson #1

Listen to your body

If your body is telling you something, listen to it. The problem here is that during a competition, especially one that was a pre-qualifier, encourages its athletes to push-push-push. Crossfit emphasizes the end result, from lifting that object off the floor, to finishing the fastest, form is often swept under the rug. Therefore, the culture has set up an environment where injuries occur, this is just one of the many. Reward is given to those that complete exercises and WODS, despite poor form, despite being injured after. Listening to your body tends to fall down on the priority list under finishing the fastest.

Blame the Coaches/Programming

The newest trend in the Crossfit debate is to blame the coaches. It is their fault people get injured, or so we believe. While good coaching can mean the difference between success and failure, one of the problems at hand is that there are tons of coaches and gyms that exist. Rapid growth of CF means quantity over quality and a couple years ago it was estimated that one in every 100 Crossfits may actually be good, with quality programming, they do exist. But, expansion of the brand is still powerful and with that a greater imbalance of quality gyms. I’d estimate now that maybe 1 in every 500 contain good, sound coaching.

Lesson #2

Pay close attention to the coaching and programming

If the coaching and programming sucks, go somewhere else. It is your body that you trust these coaches with.  At this point Crossfit and Pseudo Crossfits are so common that there is no reason to commit to just one, or the first one that you found. Find the right coach and the programming that works for you.

Blame Crossfit

This brings us full circle to the reference I made at the beginning of this article. This is a Crossfit issue. These are injuries on their soil, from their athletes, under their coaches watchful eyes, their programming, their gyms, and their brand. While a severed spine is a fluke injury that you don’t hear about all that often(especially in weightlifting), was there something that could have been done to prevent this like internal cues or better programming? But as I stated before, Crossfit has created this environment through quick expansion, an easy certification process, poor programming, and a culture that rewards the victors despite shitty,often dangerous, technique. But we all know, once you’ve been branded, there is a need to justify your decisions/investments, therefore, don’t blame CF.

Lesson #3

If you are not doing Crossfit for sport, find an alternative.

Every sport poses a risk. Athletes are well aware of the risks that they take with the sport that they love. If your sport is Crossfit, have at it. But if you chose Crossfit for any other reason besides sport like health, fitness, strength, aesthetics, weight loss, or even sports performance, find yourself another gym. The risks are too high and the reward is only moderate at best. Beating yourself to better health is what Dan John calls a Grinding program, and Crossfit is the antithesis of that.

“If you think that health and wellness are the same as sports and fitness you are confused.” -Rannoch Donald

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