CrossFit | Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

ByCrossFitJune 20, 2019

Note: CrossFit, Inc. sent the following corrective response to the Montreal Gazette on June 15, 2019, in response to Jill Barker’s June 11 article, “Are CrossFit Enthusiasts More Prone to Injury?” after the Gazette granted CrossFit the opportunity to respond. However, the Gazette refused to run our response as submitted, objecting to its length and responding:

If you would like to produce another version of this that does away with inflammatory language such as “misleading and irresponsible,” “misleading half truths” and “intellectually dishonest,” then we would consider publishing it.

While CrossFit has submitted a truncated correction to the Gazette in the interest of correcting the record in the publication that issued the errors, we include the original submission here, which we stand by in terms of content and language.

Jill Barker makes numerous false statements and factual errors in her June 11, 2019, Montreal Gazette article, “Are CrossFit Enthusiasts More Prone to Injury?” The sum of her article regarding CrossFit and injury is misleading and irresponsible. Let’s set the record straight.

First, Barker alleges that “CrossFit has aggressively pursued several scientific journals that published studies suggesting injury rates among CrossFit participants are higher.” This is a misleading half-truth.

Barker fails to inform her readers that CrossFit filed a federal complaint against its competitor, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), because the NSCA engaged in scientific misconduct by publishing a study about CrossFit that falsified and fabricated injury data. Indeed, a federal court has determined that the NSCA “made the false statement … with the intention of disparaging CrossFit and thereby driving consumers to the NSCA.” It is intellectually dishonest for Barker to leave this well-known fact out of her article.

Second, Barker’s article relies on a contested Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine (OJSM) article entitled “Likelihood of Injury and Medical Care Between CrossFit and Traditional Weightlifting Participants.” As Barker knows, this OJSM article has several serious citation and methodological flaws. That’s why CrossFit sent the journal a letter formally requesting a retraction.

Barker briefly quoted our letter, citing the conclusion that the OJSM article “is beset with scientific error, cites retracted studies that contained fabricated data and inaccurately cites other studies concerning our CrossFit® brand.”

What Barker fails to mention is the very serious nature of these flaws. The author of the OJSM article himself concedes that the paper’s reliability suffers due to a “lack of a proper definition” of “injury.” The author claims no working definition of what constitutes an injury. Yet Barker cites his work authoritatively on the very subject of injuries!

The OJSM article that Barker cites also claims to examine injuries during a two-year period. Its questionnaire, however, indicates participant experience ranged from “less than three months” to over two years. The article’s authors lumped the pool of participants together, regardless of their experience, but claimed a two-year study period. As an academic herself, Barker must recognize that this in itself constitutes a grave methodological violation of research protocols. Yet she cites the work authoritatively.

Most egregiously, Barker fails to report that the authors of the OJSM article upon which she relies cited a study that had been retracted. That is a major violation of academic integrity on the part of the researchers and a highly irresponsible omission on Barker’s part.

Finally, Barker’s Montreal Gazette piece departs so significantly from the actual record that one must speculate about her motivations. What does she have against CrossFit? A decade ago, Barker published an article claiming CrossFit was a “flash-in-the-pan fad(s)” that would “fade out fast.”

Far from a flash-in-the-pan, CrossFit has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, with over 15,000 affiliated gyms, tens of thousands of credentialed trainers, and millions of adherents. Most importantly, CrossFit is changing individual lives for the better, creating health, fitness, and wellness at a time when our society is wracked by chronic disease.

Comments on Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit


Comment thread URL copied!
Back to 190621
Matthieu Dubreucq
February 15th, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Commented on: Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

Thanks for putting the story straight.

Comment URL copied!
Christopher Michael
August 6th, 2019 at 5:26 am
Commented on: Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

What I'd like to know is why CrossFit hasn't sued. Have they published their response in another newspaper? Where is the bite behind the bark? Make this woman pay.

Comment URL copied!
Olivia Leonard
June 21st, 2019 at 10:22 pm
Commented on: Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

I would argue that–rather than surprising–it is essential for CrossFit, Inc. to respond to every false accusation and dubious implication, as part of CrossFit’s commitment to the thousands of affiliates and trainers who voluntarily associate themselves with the brand.

As the defender of that brand, it is essential to respond (yes, aggressively) against outright and deliberate bullshit, such as the NSCA’s data fabrication, but also against the kind of lazy, uninvested commentary that casually associates CrossFit training with high rates of injury, despite the fact that CrossFit training results in lower injury rates than single fitness disciplines presumed safe (such as distance running or weightlifting), as well as providing a path out of chronic disease and into health.

The reality is that the CrossFit methodology is not only safe, but it keeps you safe. The reality is that the CrossFit methodology is so efficacious that CrossFit’s competitors couldn’t beat it in terms of making people fitter or in the marketplace, and so resorted to a campaign of lies that still bears toxic fruit in ongoing and frequent citations of the retracted study that cropped up once again in Barker’s article and in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

That reality doesn’t matter to Jill Barker, nor to Aurel Wisse, who sees “balance” in Barker’s lack of interest in seriously weighing and presenting the actual facts of the matter.

But that reality does matter to the thousands of CrossFit trainers and affiliates who engage in lifesaving work in the service of their communities every day, only to be falsely labeled “dangerous” in the service of competitive advantage or a clickbait headline. And because it matters to CrossFit trainers and affiliates, it matters to CrossFit, Inc.

As for the rest of Aurel’s comment regarding the comparative quality of CrossFit’s training and credentialing, I think Greg Glassman’s Comment #20 is instructive here:

Comment URL copied!
Katina Thornton
June 21st, 2019 at 3:14 am
Commented on: Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

I appreciate CrossFit, Inc's insistence on scientific rigor. CrossFIt gave us the first and only comprehensive definition of fitness. The fact that Jill Barker lumps CrossFit with hula-hooping and pole aerobics in her August 4, 2009 article is comical. Fast forward ten years and she is writing yet another article about this "flash in the pan fitness craze," that is equally as accurate.

Comment URL copied!
Aurel Wisse
June 21st, 2019 at 1:19 am
Commented on: Jill Barker Misrepresents CrossFit Injuries and Ignores Fake Injury Data Lawsuit

I'm surprised every time at the aggressive tone of CrossFit refutations. They demand retractions, sue researchers whose results they don't like, any means are ok to stifle the debate about the risks of practicing CrossFit, which there are, like in many other sports. The article in The Gazette is actually quite balanced, definitely not biased against CrossFit. I have noticed for some time now that CrossFit is very aggressive towards opinions that express the slightest criticism of the sport, or even that disagree with dietary recommendations from CrossFit. It's not a debate but a « shut up or else » attitude. What is wrong with the communications department of this company? While the all inclusive sport represented by CrossFit is a great idea and does a lot of good, maybe a. requiring a higher qualification than a one week-end course b. requiring significant experience in coaching the multitude of intense and complex movements and c. requiring a serious qualification in scaling in order to become an affiliate would go some way to reduce the injury statistics.

Comment URL copied!
Russ Greene
June 21st, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Don Quijote tilted at windmills, it is true, but at least there were windmills. Aurel Wisse surpasses even Cervantes - he tilts at air, in defense of vapors. Wisse asks what's wrong with CrossFit's communications department. No such department exists. That he would ask indicates dire unfamiliarity with the subject of his rant. Not one to let ignorance get in the way of articulating an opinion, Wisse presents unrequested suggestions for ways that CrossFit might "reduce the injury statistics." What "injury statistics?" Wisse cites none. He does imply reference to the NSCA's Devor paper, however: "sue researchers whose results they don't like." Might this piece supply the statistics upon which Wisse relies? If so, they are as real as CrossFit's communications department: the subjects have unanimously testified to a federal court that the paper's injury claims were false. Hence Judge Janis Sammartino's finding that the NSCA's "injury statistics" were officially false, "CrossFit has presented evidence showing the injury data were in fact false–regardless of whether the authors knew it at the time–and the NSCA has identified no evidence to the contrary." Let us give Wisse the benefit of the doubt: what other "injury statistics" might he be citing? Given that he's defending Jill Barker, he might be referring to the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine article, by Gallo et al, that Barker described. If so, Wisse still lacks a solid premise to support his allegation that CrossFit should adjust its training system. Actual "injury statistics" would need to control for varying levels of exposure and be based upon defined terms. Gallo's paper failed to meet both of these necessary requirements, leaving Wisse without a single source to support his "injury statistics" concern. Perhaps this is why he did not cite one. Now, onward to Wisse's defense of Jill Barker's "definitely not biased" article. Even Wisse will agree that "balance" cannot be obtained if a journalist presents unreliable sources as solid evidence. Barker committed exactly this offense, while omitting other, more relevant evidence. Alone, this might suggest mere laziness. Taken in the context of her 13+ year efforts to besmirch CrossFit's name, on the flimsiest of bases and reaching the silliest of conclusions, one can only conclude that Barker has it out for CrossFit. In sum, Wisse attacks CrossFit's communications department, in defense of Jill Barker's balance, out of concern for "injury statistics." That none of these exist confirms my earlier suspicion. Wisse surpasses even Cervantes' tragedy of madness. And they say post-modern writing has failed to deliver. No - look to the comments.

Comment URL copied!
Jeffrey Cain
June 21st, 2019 at 9:32 pm

Of course CrossFit, Inc. aggressively and proudly defends its methodology, trainers, and affiliates against those who would falsify data and engage in scientific misconduct in order to bring harm to the CrossFit brand. That’s one of the central functions of CrossFit, Inc.

By relentlessly defending the brand, CrossFit uncovered, and courts affirmed, a systematic and ongoing campaign by its competitors to discredit CrossFit by falsely painting it as dangerous.

CrossFit revolutionized the so-called fitness industry and vanquished its moribund competition, which now seeks unfair competitive advantage through state-sponsored fitness and nutrition licensure and soda-funded programs like Exercise is Medicine.

Industry-funded organizations have falsified research and engaged in scientific misconduct for the purpose of discrediting CrossFit. Their wrongful conduct goes far beyond harming CrossFit; it harms anyone who, looking to improve their health or fitness, turned away from CrossFit because they were influenced by false, industry-funded claims.

What 15,000 CrossFit affiliates, tens of thousands of CrossFit trainers, and millions of CrossFit adherents have shown, is that far from being dangerous, CrossFit is essential. Of course CrossFit will relentlessly defend its brand.

Comment URL copied!
John Miller
October 12th, 2019 at 9:58 pm

Amen! CrossFit use to sell a bumper sticker that read, “CrossFit” is Dangerous.” I have it on a stainless steel water bottle.

Everyone knows that the way people get introduced to the Olympic weightlifting movements is a recipe for injury. Talk to anyone thats been doing CrossFit longer than 10 years, and they will tell you of their shoulder injuries and or surgery.

Comment URL copied!