CrossFit Inc. is Suing the National Strength and Conditioning Association

Dr. William Kraemer. Photo Credit: Youtube

Dr. William Kraemer. Photo Credit: Youtube

CrossFit Inc. is suing the National Strength and Conditioning Association for intentionally publishing a fraudulent study about CrossFit. You can read CrossFit’s filing here.

CrossFit 614, the affiliate where corresponding author Steven Devor conducted his fraudulent study, already sued Devor and the NSCA. Unfortunately, the NSCA’s corrupted science didn’t just harm CrossFit 614. The NSCA also falsely besmirched the reputation of all CrossFit affiliates, and spread the lie that they are practicing dangerous training.

The NSCA could have avoided this. I personally emailed their board a year ago, after publishing this investigation into the Devor study. The NSCA did not respond.

In October 2013, I spoke to William Kraemer, an ACSM fellow and Editor in Chief of the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. I informed Kraemer of his investigation’s conclusions: the researchers claimed the subjects cited “overuse or injury” without speaking to the subjects. In other words, Devor and Co. made it up. And I could prove it.

Kraemer casually dismissed my concerns. Surely, Kraemer argued, the peer review process was sufficient and there was no need to investigate the allegation of fraud. The next month, the NSCA’s JSCR published the Devor study.

The NSCA has retracted other papers before. In 2009 they retracted a study “for reasons related to oversights by the author that made the information not completely accurate and representative of the subject.”

When I informed the NSCA of my finding, ethics and consistency mandated that they investigate them, and retract the paper accordingly. Devor’s misconduct deserved a retraction even more than the flawed 2009 study. He committed scientific fraud, not merely an “oversight.”

And yet, the NSCA failed to retract flawed research when concerned CrossFit. Now they’ll have to admit it.

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23 comments

  1. Jordan

    Crossfit has a very high injury rate due to poor exercise selection by incompetent trainers – that’s fact!!
    This is just an attempt to silence critics – it won’t work

    • Jordan,
      Please provide a source for your claim that CrossFit has a very high injury rate. Considering that this is a “fact” that shouldn’t be hard to do. If you think this is “just an attempt to silence critics” are you suggesting that publishing fake injury data about CrossFit is an acceptable form of criticism? I’m looking forward to your response.

      Thanks,

      • CrossFit is a constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement strength and conditioning program which has seen a huge growth in popularity around the world since its inception twelve years ago. There has been much criticism as to the potential injuries associated with CrossFit training including rhabdomyolysis and musculoskeletal injuries. However to date no evidence exists in the literature to the injures and rates sustained. The purpose of this study was to determine the injury rates and profiles of CrossFit athletes sustained during routine CrossFit training. An online questionnaire was distributed amongst international CrossFit online forums. Data collected included general demographics, training programs, injury profiles and supplement use. A total of 132 responses were collected with 97 (73.5%) having sustained an injury during CrossFit training. A total of 186 injuries were reported with 9 (7.0%) requiring surgical intervention. An injury rate of 3.1 per 1000 hours trained was calculated. No incidences of rhabdomyolysis were reported. Injury rates with CrossFit training are similar to that reported in the literature for sports such as Olympic weight-lifting, power-lifting and gymnastics and lower than competitive contact sports such as rugby union and rugby league. Shoulder and spine injuries predominate with no incidences of rhabdomyolysis obtained. To our knowledge this is the first paper in the literature detailing the injury rates and profiles with CrossFit participation.

  2. Robert, You are using the data that Crossfit is suing the NSCA about. Read the entire study and learn about how the data was collected. It is completely bogus data (on injury rate). That is what is being disputed here. I am a member of the NSCA and I am ashamed that this study and its methods have not been recanted by now.

  3. Crossfit is the BEST form of exercise EVER. I am 61 YEARS young, have been doing it for 3 and a half years. I have lost body fat, am active and I progress within what my body tells me, I lift Strong, I am progressing well and hope to achieve Muscle Ups and hand stands within the year. Each individual takes resposibility for his/her rate of progress and injuries are not the result of Crossfit

  4. Jon Wallace

    in any sport there are injuries, if you have coaches/trainers that are not properly trained or do not have enough experience in any given field then there will be major injuries. I think that many people including coaches/organizations that have not been properly introduced or practice cross fit and that are not part of something bigger/greater will try and bring it down. Most injuries come from incorrect form and the desire to beat your buddy instead of trying to beat yourself.

  5. Jon,
    I agree with you that there are injuries in any type of sport or fitness activity. I don’t agree that “Most injuries come from incorrect form…” If this were true we should see fewer injuries in more advanced athletes, and that doesn’t appear to be the case. We also see CrossFit improving the health and fitness of thousands of people who do it on their own in their garages, often with with poor technique. The mechanism of musculoskeletal injury is simply more complex and difficult to predict than this.

  6. James Eaves

    I know it is off topic but my criticism is simply this. CrossFit should have a more thorough certification process. Someone with no exercise science knowledge or background can attend the L1 seminar, listen to the lecture, participate in the PVC pipe break out sessions, pass the quiz at the end and be “certified” to instruct Olympic lifting the very next day at the box they decide to open. Russell, it is easy to see that you completely believe in the CrossFit brand and you know what? I did too. So this isn’t an attack on you by any means. But even you have to agree that the ease of qualification for their approval to administer exercise is astounding and we are very fortunate that there have not been more reported injuries to date. Imagine your mother, grandmother or any loved one attending their first CrossFit with the aforementioned “coach” running the program, how safe would you feel?

    • Yes, this is off topic, but I’ll have a go anyway because I think you are absolutely wrong.

      The CrossFit L1 seminar is the only internationally accredited fitness course, and it is accredited through ANSI, which is a higher standard than the NCCA, which accredits, for example, the NSCA. The course is two days long, and requires passing a test. This is identical to every other fitness industry qualification, except those that are test-only. The L1 also has hours of practical instruction on teaching, seeing, and correcting basic movement. I know of no other industry accredited course that offers this. Most other courses put more emphasis on anatomy and physiology, which is interesting, and probably the least important area of knowledge necessary for being an effective coach. The NSCA’s CSCS requires a degree of course, but this could be in anything… including women’s studies or religion.

      The L1 is an entry-level course, and we specifically tell participants to continue their education if they plan to coach others. It is also important to note that you do not need ANY qualification of ANY type to begin training others. CrossFit is offering a course where none is required, and it is being criticized blindly for not being good enough when it meets or surpasses the quality of every other credential offered in the fitness industry.

    • I hear this a lot from critics and I want to make this point, which is different from Russell’s points, which I also think are valid. Do you think this is actually happening? Like do you actually think people are actually deciding one day, having never been around Olympic lifting or CF, to attend a class, get certified, then pop open a box? Even the boxes with lots of members and low rent costs (not that many) aren’t exactly ATM machines. And even if they were, do you think people are doing this? The box owners I know do it because they love it. This, in turn, makes them less likely to hire a crappy coach. And, of course, coaching at a box isn’t exactly doctor pay either; how many coaches do you know who aren’t gym rats obsessed with technique? I know very few.

      Also, people drop in on boxes other than their own all the time. Bad technique coaching would quickly get found out. I counted and over the last two years I’ve been to 9 boxes, which I’m sure is a fairly small number. I haven’t yet found a “boogieman box.” What I see is remarkably similar instructions across boxes. What I see is coaches being total assholes about my technique. What I see is CF’ers who, in addition to the coaches, police themselves. I occasionally see classes that are a little too big (maybe 5 times in two years). I occasionally (maybe 5 times in two years) see a class with a 30-40 minute workout where I felt like the instructor skimped on stretching a bit to get it all in (I don’t have the expertise to KNOW whether stretching was skimped on).

      If people were actually walking of the street taking an L1, opening a box, and instructing I agree with you that would be a problem. But, if you claim the brand is being diluted, give me some boxes where this is happening instead of a hypothetical.

  7. Andrew Westphal

    I am very curious to see if your lawsuit will hold up in court. Frankly, it seems like your organization is trying to badger these scientists because they found a result that you believe to be unfavorable. Principal investigators rarely will collect their own research and the fact that a study is “blinded” does not mean that NOBODY on the research team has a document connecting identifiers to names and phone numbers. The researchers collecting the dependent variable measurements may not know, but somebody on the research team certainly does. However, they may be forced to delete this document due to IRB regulations (scientific ethics board) when the study is completed, especially if medical information is collected. Also, I could see why the lead author may not want a multi-million dollar corporation attacking him over the validity of a self-report measure and I could see how your pestering of the subjects who dropped out could lead them to change their stories to appease you all. Also, you should not be contacting the research subjects over their participation in this study in the first place – this also breaches basic scientific ethical guidelines over confidentiality.

    • Andrew,
      your feelings about this lawsuit and CrossFit’s complaint against the NSCA only highlight your ignorance of the case. I interviewed the corresponding author (who’s job is to answer public questions about the study) and asked him to explain how he gather data on participants who didn’t show up to his lab. He couldn’t answer this simple question. He then refused to speak to me further. You’ve re-imagined this as me “badgering” him.

      The study’s own coordinator claimed that she was the only one who had identifying data on the participants, and Devor has finally admitted in his response to the lawsuit against him that he never contacted the participants. You’ve waved these fact away and feel comfortable imagining that “somebody on the research team knows.”

      The subjects who did not complete the test came forward willingly once they found out that researchers they had never spoken to were making up reasons for them not returning to the study. Yet you’ve put forward an imaginary version of events where you can blame us for doing something unethical.

      It seems to me you are far more interested in coming up with creative ad-hoc scenarios that might defend the NSCA and the authors of this study then actually interacting with the facts of the case. I think replies like yours only show how strong our complaint really is. If it was weak, you could demonstrate that based on the facts.

      • Andrew Westphal

        Thanks for taking the time to address my concerns. As a scientist myself, it is common to see people outside of the community attack research they do not like and ignore scientific principles. Frankly, if Devor really never contacted the participants and nobody on his team did either, then this does demonstrate one of the uglier sides of the scientific profession. Peer review is a flawed process as it does not require our peers to actually review anything about the original data – at most it requires asking for more information about various aspects and is subject to outright fraud to an unfortunate degree.

      • Andrew,
        I agree with your assessment of peer review. I think the practice leads to scientists voting for or against studies based on personal biases regarding the outcome rather than the merit of the study itself. I think we will know much more about what exactly went wrong in this case after the discovery process.

  8. Kyle Asplund

    Russell, I applaud you and CrossFit Inc. for finally taking a stand against the stagnant and inefficient fitness industry in the US. I have been a CFL1 trainer since 2012 and have been coaching at Imperial CrossFit in Kent WA for almost a year. The CFL1 course was the best fitness training I have ever received and I have been serving in the US Army for 12 years. People always have a problem with something that changes the status quo. Good luck, I hope this has a favorable outcome for CrossFit.

  9. Pingback: CrossFit Danville » Do you even eat fat bro?

  10. Pingback: Defending the brand

  11. Pingback: CrossFit sues over study that alleges high injury rate | Sports News around the world

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