CrossFit demands retraction of paper claiming their participants are more likely to be injured

via U.S. Army

Saying that a paper has “fatal and disqualifying errors,” CrossFit is demanding the retraction of a recently published article that claimed those participating in CrossFit “are more likely to be injured and to seek medical treatment compared with participants in traditional weightlifting.”

The paper, “Likelihood of Injury and Medical Care Between CrossFit and Traditional Weightlifting Participants,” was published on May 7 in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

In a May 17 letter to the journal’s editor and the paper’s corresponding author, CrossFit general counsel Marshall Brenner said the article

requires immediate retraction because it is beset with scientific error, cites retracted studies that contained fabricated data and inaccurately cites other studies concerning our CrossFit® brand.

The paper is “a complete mess,” Russ Greene, CrossFit’s director of government relations and research, told Retraction Watch.

Neither the journal editor nor the corresponding author has responded to CrossFit, Greene said.

Bruce Reider, the journal’s editor in chief, told Retraction Watch:

We just received their request recently and we are following our normal process for such requests. It is too early to have any comment.

CrossFit and retractions

Retraction Watch readers may know that we don’t typically cover calls for retraction. They’re not always what’s best for the scientific record, and in journalistic terms, they’re a lot like covering a lawsuit filing: Most don’t go anywhere, and are just a way for one of the parties to get free press coverage.

But we’ve made an exception here because CrossFit has a track record in this arena. Their demands for a retraction, and multiple lawsuits they filed, led to the retraction of a paper by researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) two years ago. That retracted paper is cited by the new article that CrossFit is now asking to be retracted.

One of the authors of that retracted paper resigned from OSU soon after the retraction appeared. And the company won a judge’s order requiring the publisher of the retracted paper — the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) — to unmask its peer reviewers. (The NCSA, which had brought the suit that led to that order, dropped it last year.)

Greene told Retraction Watch that the retracted paper has been cited “multiple times this year, despite its 2017 retraction and 2015 correction.” Indeed, the paper has been cited more than two dozen times since it was retracted, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

Greene continued:

Beyond citing retracted research, this new paper also misrepresents cited work, does not define basic terms, and fails to control for exposure. It’s a complete mess.

Legitimate research on CrossFit has reached a near unanimous conclusion: “The injury incidence rate associated with CrossFit training was low, and comparable to other forms of recreational fitness activities.”

That the authors in this study reached a different conclusion indicates their own shoddy methodology, not a real finding.

We expect and hope that the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine will retract this paper shortly. It is a shame it was ever published. Each day it remains in print is a new smirch on the journal’s reputation.

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One thought on “CrossFit demands retraction of paper claiming their participants are more likely to be injured”

  1. As described in the letter, the paper sounds like it involves poor scholarship and poor methods. If this is a reason for retraction, many thousands of papers need to be retracted. The term “CrossFit” seems to be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If the investigators did not verify that they were studying CrossFit, but then use that term to describe one group of survey respondents as engaging in CrossFit, that seems to be the strongest argument of the letter for retraction.

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