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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.

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