CrossFit Injury Study Corrected

Article led to multiple lawsuits

Sep 23, 2015
Outside Magazine

Potterf is seeking both correction and monetary compensation for the alleged defamation of his business.    iStock

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that found CrossFit “significantly improves VO2max and body composition” has been updated by the journal—but not the researchers—for allegedly inflating the injury rates of the popular exercise program. A statement in the October issue of the journal advises readers to ignore the earlier conclusion that 16 percent of the study participants quit the CrossFit program due to “overuse or injury.” The study has been the cause of multiple lawsuits by CrossFit, which said the journal misrepresented injury rates. Outside has previously written about the study in two articles, which can be found here and here.

The original study, published in affiliation with the Ohio State University by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), appeared in the November 2013 print issue of the peer-reviewed journal. It followed 54 athletes over ten weeks at Ohio Fit Club, a CrossFit affiliate gym in Columbus, Ohio. Researchers concluded that CrossFit-based high-intensity power training resulted in “meaningful improvements of maximal aerobic capacity and body composition in men and women of all levels of fitness.” But CrossFit disputed the finding that nine of the participants dropped out of the study due to injury. CrossFit filed suit against the NSCA in May 2014 for false advertising, unfair competition, and declaratory relief. Ohio Fit Club filed its own lawsuits against the study authors and the NSCA. 

According to the NSCA’s correction, the data analyzed for the study’s original injury rate figure were provided by Mitchell Potterf, owner of the Ohio Fit Club, but he has since “denied that he provided this information.” The correction also notes that two of the participants failed to finish the study due to “injury or health conditions.” Potterf’s lawyer, Ken Donchatz, told Retraction Watch, an independent study watchdog, that none of the study participants were directly injured by the training plan and that the two participants mentioned in the correction withdrew from the study for reasons unrelated to CrossFit: One had a “preexisting disorder,” and the other hurt his back “on his own doing an Olympic lift.” Donchatz told Retraction Watch that he has sworn testimony from the participants proving that they were not injured by the training program. 

“I think publicly I’m supposed to say [the correction] is a victory, but I have no feelings about it,” Potterf told Outside on Tuesday.

Potterf is seeking both correction and monetary compensation for the alleged defamation of his business, Retraction Watch reports. The NSCA declined to comment for this story. Outside also requested comment from CrossFit and the Ohio State University but did not hear back by the time of publication.