CrossFit to be tied: Fitness company sues journal to retract “sloppy and scientifically unreliable work”
Lawsuits are usually dry and boring, so it’s always fun to read one with a little life.
Here’s one of those: CrossFit, the fitness program famous for its brief, strenuous exercises and passionate devotees, is suing the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA), which it considers its staid competitor for the nation’s sweat and cash.
According to CrossFit, the NSCA published a study with a “falsified rate of injury,” “in an effort to portray CrossFit as ‘dangerous’ and therefore a fitness program that should be avoided.”
No matter that the study, published in NSCA’s official research journal, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, concluded overall that CrossFit is a useful form of exercise. The suit says that the authors fudged a few statistics about participants’ injuries. Here’s the relevant section from the paper, titled “Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition:”
Out of the original 54 participants, a total of 43 (23 males, 20 females) fully completed the training program and returned for follow up testing. Of the 11 subjects who dropped out of the training program, two cited time concerns with the remaining nine subjects (16% of total recruited subjects) citing overuse or injury for failing to complete the program and finish follow up testing.
And from Russell Berger, a CrossFit trainer who writes for the company’s blog:
What is “overuse or injury”? The study does not define what it means by the term “overuse.” The study also does not detail what specific cases of “overuse or injury” the subjects cited, what caused them, whether the cases were pre-existing conditions, or how long the subjects experienced “overuse or injury.”
Furthermore, the study was “blind,” meaning the researchers in the lab were only able to identify participants by a single number. If the 11 subjects who failed to show up for the test-out were de-identified in this way (and obviously not present at the Ohio State lab), how could Dr. Smith collect any data on the reason for their absence?
Chelsea Rankin, a member of CrossFit 614, volunteered to be the study coordinator for Dr. [Michael] Smith. During our conversation, I asked Rankin how Dr. Smith could have gathered data on why the 11 didn’t show up to the lab.
Rankin gave me her own opinion on Dr. Smith’s work: “I did all the data collection for the study, and I know every person who didn’t re-test. It was easy to figure out they weren’t injured. This data is inaccurate. Those individuals were not injured, and that wasn’t the reason they didn’t test out. To me this questions the validity of the research.”
Dr. Devor was made aware of the discrepancy between the “overuse or injury” findings in the Devor Study and the responses of the participants to inquiries by the CrossFit affiliate owner and CrossFit’s own representative. In an April 23, 2013 telephone conversation with Russell Berger of CrossFit, Dr. Devor admitted that his team conducted a “blind study” and, therefore, did not know the identity of the nine participants who did not return. In fact, Dr. Devor stated that he did not collect any of the data at all. He said the data was collected by Dr. Smith.
The lawsuit goes on to cite a number of publications that have cited the Devor study as proof that CrossFit is dangerous, and to ask for both monetary compensation and for the court to:
order the recall of all copies of any version of the Devor Study and any excerpt or portion thereof, including disabling copies available via the Internet over which the NSCA has control.
…the NSCA claims they don’t have enough information to have an opinion about the Devor study, its data, or the study’s validity to affirm or deny our claims about it.
We’ve reached out to CrossFit’s lawyers and Devor, and will update with any further information.
Hat tip: Ben Gallarda