CrossFit Versus the NSCA: Where Is the Truth?
The word reify keeps popping into my head as I hear about the CrossFit versus NSCA lawsuit. Reify means “to make real.” In German, it is called Verdinglichung, which is literally, "making into a thing."
I wonder whether this lawsuit reifies the idea that CrossFit creates injury. At the least, it creates a negative association for people not familiar with CrossFit.
Disclaimer: I have both NSCA and CrossFit certifications. I took the exam for the NSCA CSCS and participated in the CrossFit Level 1, gymnastics, and mobility certifications. I do not work for either company nor do I have a large stake in either. I paid money to become certified as a personal goal. I align myself with science, as I am a researcher and a professor. I hope to look at this debate from a scientific perspective.
The lawsuit stems from an article written by graduate student Michael Smith and his mentor Steven Devor. They were at Ohio State University when they did this research. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, where the research was published, is operated by the NSCA. The NSCA creates certifications for trainers, such as the NSCA-CPT and the CSCS.
"Overall, the article is flattering to CrossFit. I imagine Michael Smith was interested in CrossFit and chose to use it as a platform for his dissertation study."
CrossFit claims these certifications are competitors to their certification, and they state the article by Smith and Devor provides “false advertising.” But overall, the article is flattering to CrossFit. I imagine Michael Smith was interested in CrossFit and chose to use it as a platform for his dissertation study.
The Science of the Article
The researchers followed 54 participants for ten weeks as they completed CrossFit-style workouts. The participants were recruited from a CrossFit facility and continued their program there. The workouts are described in the article.
The 43 people who completed the program experienced significant reductions in body fat percentage and increased VO2 max. These people came into the study with different levels of experience, but the broad spectrum of individuals improved.
This study sounds like great marketing material. Even the title, Crossfit-Based High-Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition, is a strong endorsement. But, in the discussion section, scientists have hemmed and hawed over the article. We are trained to describe what else might have caused the result and other limitations. Smith himself wrote about the sixteen people who dropped out of the study:
A unique concern with any high-intensity training program such as HIPT or other similar programs is the risk of overuse injury. Despite a deliberate periodization and supervision of our Crossfit-based training program by certified fitness professionals, a notable percentage of our subjects (16%) did not complete the training program and return for follow-up testing. Although peer-reviewed evidence of injury rates pertaining to high-intensity training programs is sparse, there are emerging reports of increased rates of musculoskeletal and metabolic injury in these programs (1). This may call into question the risk-benefit ratio for such extreme training programs, as the relatively small aerobic fitness and body composition improvements observed among individuals who are already considered to be “above average” and “well-above average” may not be worth the risk of injury and lost training time. Further work in this area is needed to explore how to best realize improvements to health without increasing risk above background levels associated with participation in any non–high intensity based fitness regimen.
I like this paragraph. It is what I ask my students to write. It gives enough ambiguity and says very little. A study of only 54 people can say little about injury rates. Imagine a small party of ten of your friends. You find three have the same birthday. You could assume that day has some special feature, but it is more likely to be a fluke. If you question 1, people and have the same birthday, then you can say a lot more. Statistically, the second fluke is unlikely.
There is another controversial statement that seems to be the focus of CrossFit’s lawsuit:
Out of the original 54 participants, a total of 43 (23 men, 20 women) fully completed the training program and returned for follow-up testing. Of the 11 subjects who dropped out of the training program, 2 cited time concerns with the remaining 9 subjects (16% of total recruited subjects) citing overuse or injury for failing to complete the program and finish follow-up testing.
Russell Berger has indicated that he has proof that these nine participants did not have overuse or injury problems. He describes a phone call with the author’s mentor and with the CrossFit trainer at the facility. He also provided a video indicating a larger conspiracy against CrossFit from the NSCA. If a statement is not true, then the journal should retract it. So far, the journal stands by the authors’ statements.
Many of you probably read the article in question with preconceived ideas about CrossFit’s usefulness and its potential for injury. After reading the article, you could take either side. You could point out the good outcome as proof your notion was correct. You could take the injury rate and say CrossFit is injuring everyone. The truth is somewhere between these two views.
"The idea that we don’t know is central to this article and to science in general. Every study gives us a nugget of information that leads toward the next study."
CrossFit has positive effects, as we see in this study. People also get injured doing CrossFit. What we don’t know is whether the injury rate is worse than in other sports. We also don’t know whether the positive effects are as good as other programs. The idea that we don’t know is central to this article and to science in general. Every study gives us a nugget of information that leads toward the next study. Over time and with many studies, we can find our answers.
If CrossFit is going to take aim at every single study that has a bad outcome, it could become a quixotic quest. There are bound to be other studies that show injury rates. Furthermore, the positive highlights of this study seem to be lost in the battle over injury rates.
The majority of this article is flattering to CrossFit. More focus on the positives would be helpful for CrossFit. It would avoid the association that comes from repeated exposure of CrossFit injury rates.
On Dec. 4, , Judge Janis L. Sammartino ordered terminating sanctions against the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) in the case of CrossFit, Inc. v. NSCA. With this ruling, the court ordered the NSCA to pay CrossFit, Inc. $3,, as a sanction and then terminated the case in CrossFit’s favor. The Court also awarded numerous issue sanctions that conclude the NSCA’s corrupt practices harmed CrossFit (while benefiting the NSCA) in the military, U.S., and international communities.
CrossFit, Inc. sued the NSCA after the NSCA published a “scientific” study containing false and fabricated data about CrossFit’s injury rate that was designed specifically to harm CrossFit’s business and reputation. Additionally, as elaborated in CrossFit, Inc.’s June request for terminating sanctions:
For the last five years, the NSCA has engaged in nothing short of a marathon of malfeasance: a consistent, intentional, and malicious pattern of discovery abuses designed to cover up the NSCA’s wrongdoing and to prohibit CrossFit and the Court from learning the truth about the NSCA’s fraud. The NSCA’s abuses, and efforts to conceal its abuses, are among the worst of any published case in modern history and include systemic perjury, evidence destruction, and evidence concealment.
Judge Sammartino agreed. In the Dec. 4 order, she writes:
[I]n twenty-five years on the bench, “[t]his is the first case that [the Court] ha[s] ever had that has gotten to this point.” … Having carefully considered the record, “[t]he severity and frequency of defendant[’s] bad faith misconduct is as egregious as anything this [C]ourt has ever seen or read.
The order also provided CrossFit with the following issue sanctions against the NSCA, to be applied in the forthcoming damages phase of the proceeding:
a. It is taken as established that the NSCA’s unfair competition and false advertising—including its false statements in the Devor Article, Erratum, Hak Study, various TSAC Report articles about CrossFit, content promoted at NSCA events referencing CrossFit-related injuries, and republication of these false statements—have deceived and continue to deceive the public and consumers regarding the safety and effectiveness of CrossFit training;
b. It is taken as established that the NSCA’s unfair competition and false advertising—including its false statements in the Devor Article, Erratum, Hak Study, various TSAC Report articles about CrossFit, content promoted at NSCA events referencing CrossFit-related injuries, and republication of these false statements—caused a decline in CrossFit’s seminar revenue in the military, United States, and international fitness markets;
c. It is taken as established that the NSCA’s unfair competition and false advertising—including its false statements in the Devor Article, Erratum, Hak Study, various TSAC Report articles about CrossFit, content promoted at NSCA events referencing CrossFit-related injuries, and republication of these false statements—were willful and malicious;
d. It is taken as established that the NSCA’s unfair competition and false advertising—including its false statements in the Devor Article, Erratum, Hak Study, various TSAC Report articles about CrossFit, any content promoted at NSCA events referencing CrossFit-related injuries, and republication of these false statements—have increased NSCA revenue, growth, and goodwill, while injuring CrossFit’s revenue, growth, and goodwill;
e. It is taken as established that the NSCA’s unfair competition and false advertising were a material cause of CrossFit’s damages.
It is significant to note that the nearly $4,, in monetary sanctions do not represent the damages owed to CrossFit, Inc. at the conclusion of this case. Sanctions and damages are separate and distinct. The amount of damages to be awarded to CrossFit is yet to be determined by the court.
CrossFit, Inc. provided the following statement in response:
The NSCA’s repeated lies to the public and court, evidence destruction, and perjury warrant this ruling. The Court’s watershed ruling highlights the NSCA’s extensive efforts to cover up its egregious scientific misconduct. As CrossFit has alleged since , the NSCA and William Kraemer, the editor-in-chief of the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, fabricated injury data about CrossFit, falsified the research record when presented with the true data, and committed broad detrimental research practices. The NSCA harmed the CrossFit community for its own commercial gain. But even more, the NSCA and Kraemer lied to the public, military, and lawmakers by claiming the NSCA was in the business of telling the truth for a living. This ruling confirms that everyone — including research institutions, taxpayers, and the government — cannot trust the information, certifications, or “science” promoted by the NSCA or Kraemer.
CrossFit’s experience with the NSCA provides vital insight into the widespread damage that results from bad and outright corrupt science. For CrossFit’s affiliates, this hard-won understanding is especially poignant. How many chronically diseased people avoided a CrossFit affiliate because of the false notion that CrossFit is unsafe or dangerous? How many more could have been helped or even saved over the years if the marketplace had not been poisoned with false information? The NSCA unquestionably has betrayed the public’s trust and defied its charter to serve the public decently and truthfully.
CrossFit, Inc. has remained resolute in the fight to vindicate its affiliates and trainers in the face of the false charges leveled against them and against the CrossFit methodology. This ruling marks a major victory in both this fight and CrossFit’s ongoing effort to pursue truth and expose deeply entrenched corruption in the fitness and health sciences.
A Federal court in California has ruled in favor of the popular training program CrossFit in its lawsuit against a nonprofit group a competitor in fitness training awarding the workout company nearly $4 million in sanctions.
Why are you reading about this case on Retraction Watch, you might ask? Well, at the heart of the suit, first filed in , was a now-retracted study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published by the NSCA showing, erroneously, that CrossFit was linked to an increased risk for injuries. The journal initially corrected the article, but as CrossFit noted, the publication never acknowledged fabrication of data.
The senior author of that paper, Steven Devor, resigned his position at The Ohio State University after the retraction in mid As we reported at the time, the institution had demanded:
That Devor either correct or retract the study, that he take a 33 percent pay cut for the rest of the year, and that he refrain from both serving as a principal investigator and contacting graduate students as long as he remained there.
The scathing ruling, from Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the U.S. District Court of Southern California on Dec. 4, found that the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA):
deceived and continue to deceive the public and consumers regarding the safety and effectiveness of CrossFit training
Judge Sammartino also agreed that NSCA had destroyed documents related to the suit, perjured itself in the matter and committed other legal violations:
Not only is it clear that the NSCA knowingly and repeatedly resisted producing documents that were irrefutably relevant to this litigation, but the forensic evaluation also uncovered evidence that the NSCA destroyed presumptively relevant documents and engaged in mass deletions across numerous devices during the pendency of this litigation.
Indeed, at an October hearing for the case, the court declared that:
“[t] he severity and frequency of defendant[’s] bad faith misconduct is as egregious as anything this [C]ourt has ever seen or read in any of the cases.”
Mike Hobson, the communications manager for the NSCA, provided this statement to Retraction Watch:
The NSCA does not agree with the findings or conclusions in the December 4, Order. The NSCA is analyzing the Order in detail, and considering all of its options.
The court gave the NSCA and Crossfit a January 14 deadline to report on agreed-upon payment terms for the $4 million, which is considered a sanction and does not include damages from the case.
CrossFit has aggressively pursued legal remedies in the case, and others. In , the company asked a judge to unmask the peer reviewers for the retracted paper in its search for signs of bias in the article and convinced the court. And it has pushed for the retraction of another paper, this one in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, suggesting its workouts cause more injuries than conventional weightlifting. So far, that paper still stands.
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CrossFit LLC wrapped up its six-year-long legal battle with the National Strength and Conditioning Association in a private settlement, according to Andrew Weinstein, CrossFit’s Head of Communications and Public Policy. The settlement, which was made in private, was not issued by Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the U.S. District Court of San Diego and therefore not in the public record.
- Weinstein: “The case has been settled in CrossFits favor. The payment terms are confidential. We are very pleased to have this matter resolved, so we can focus on our mission of building the worlds leading platform for health, happiness and performance.
The news comes on the heels of Law’s reporting that the NSCA and its insurer, National Casualty Co, reached a deal on Monday. The two were locked in a legal battle since July when National Casualty sued the NSCA so they were no longer liable to cover NSCA’s damages.
Why it matters: Essentially Judge Sammartino’s ruling a little more than a year ago that the NSCA’s actions constituted “extensive perjury,” and called them “inherently untrustworthy” was essentially the nail in the coffin. Now the legal battle is officially over and CrossFit can go on to doing other things with its time and money.
Some background: CrossFit’s original lawsuit dates back to when they sued the NSCA over a study that falsely claimed that CrossFit was dangerous.
- Then in , the court found that “the NSCA fabricated the injury data and published them in [the Journal of Strength and Conditioning]…with the intention of protecting its market share in the fitness industry and diminishing the burgeoning popularity of the CrossFit program.”
- In May , the court awarded CrossFit $,00 in attorneys’ fees.
- In July , NSCA’s insurer filed a lawsuit against the NSCA arguing that because the court had found intent to deceive they were no longer liable to cover the NSCA.
- In December , the judge awarded CrossFit just shy of $4 million in legal fees alone.
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NSCA Responds to CrossFit Lawsuit
Colorado Springs, CO - As some of you are aware, the for-profit company Cross Fit Inc. recently filed a lawsuit against the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). NSCA denies the allegations and claims made against it by CrossFit, and believes the action by CrossFit to be wholly without merit and a malicious attack on the NSCA. The NSCA will vigorously defend itself against this baseless lawsuit and protect the interests of the NSCA.
At the center of the lawsuit is a research article published in NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. As with all research published in NSCA’s journals, the article in question was authored by independent researchers and was accepted for publication following a rigorous peer-review process. While NSCA has no opinion on the validity or invalidity of claims made in the article or the criticisms of same being leveled by CrossFit, NSCA has full confidence that the review and publication processes for research published in NSCA journals is beyond reproach.
The NSCA is a research-based nonprofit organization committed to the highest standards in its publications, certifications and educational services. As the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning, the NSCA is dedicated to promoting the application of best practices among its thousands of members and certified professionals around the world.
The NSCA thanks its members for their support as the organization works with its attorneys to address these matters through the appropriate channels. Further, the NSCA commends its certified professionals for the work they do every day to improve the athletic performance and fitness of their athletes and clients.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - A major win for Crossfit in its years-long battle with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), after the organization published a study stating Crossfit led to injury and wasn’t worth the risk back in
In court last Wednesday, a San Diego District Court judge awarded Crossfit $4 million to cover legal fees, and also granted the fitness company’s motion for terminating sanctions against the NSCA (punishment for “grossly improper litigation”). The NSCA is based in Colorado Springs.
(READ the order issued by Judge Janis Sammartino)
According to CrossFit’s website, the fitness company filed the lawsuit in May because the NSCA published a supposedly “scientific” study containing false and fabricated data about CrossFit's injury rate that was designed specifically to harm CrossFit's business and reputation.
In , the NSCA admitted it falsified data showing 16 percent of its subjects cited “overuse or injury” as their reasons for not completing CrossFit training.
The judge's order says the NSCA made false statements about CrossFit and "deceived the public and consumers regarding the safety and effectiveness of CrossFit training."
Back in , the Pentagon had considered banning CrossFit for military personnel, according to leaked documents. A ban was never put in place, but the judge's order says that the NSCA's "republication of false statements caused a decline in Crossfit's seminar revenue in the military."
Court documents show the NSCA destroyed and concealed evidence throughout the case, including the “disappearance” of hundreds of devices used during the time the study was conducted.
In granting CrossFit's motion for terminating sanctions, the judge stated, “in twenty-five years on the bench, ‘[t]his is the first case that [the Court] ha[s] ever had that has gotten to this point…Having carefully considered the record, ‘[t]he severity and frequency of defendant[’s] bad faith misconduct is as egregious as anything this [C]ourt has ever seen or read in any of the cases.’”
KRDO crews reached out to the owner of CrossFit Decimate for a response to the new development.
Owner, Alex Esqueda, says the original article tarnished CrossFit's reputation.
"I think those original allegations have predicated themselves through the fitness industry, through the military, through the service industry, and it definitely has been a challenge to overcome," he said.
He says it's disturbing to hear about intentional harm to CrossFit, done by an organization that says it's dedicated to the advancement of strength and conditioning around the world.
“When you find out that there is an organization that is intentionally going against it and intentionally withholding something potentially good for the public, it’s really upsetting for sure," Esqueda said.
The NSCA released the following statement to KRDO on the matter:
"The NSCA does not agree with the findings or conclusions in the ruling. We are in the process of analyzing the ruling in detail and are committed to assessing all available options to defend and protect our organization."
Top StoriesSours: https://krdo.com/news/top-stories//12/12/judge-nsca-falsified-data-to-harm-crossfits-business-and-reputation/
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Yesterday was a HUGE day for CrossFit and its community, as a whole. The judge presiding over their case with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has ruled the NSCA is responsible for nearly $4 million in CrossFit’s legal fees.
Let’s catch you up. In , the NSCA released a study making allegations that CrossFit had dangerously-high injury rates. This report quickly became the catalyst of a stigma surrounding CrossFit that the fitness modality is dangerous. But it was all faked. A court found in that the injury data in the report was fabricated and was published “with the intention of protecting [the NSCA’s] market share in the fitness industry.”
Since then, even the NSCA’s insurance provider has sued them to be released from the liability of paying for their behavior.
Yesterday’s legal findings largely encircled how the NSCA handled a court-ordered independent evaluation of their internal documents and communications. Morning Chalk Up has shared the court document. I have a link to that in my show notes at WODDITY.com if you want to read the thing. It’s dry, but damning.
According to the court, “CrossFit has established that the NSCA intended to and did deprive
CrossFit of electronically-stored information relevant to this litigation…”
The court ordered the NSCA to comply with any discovery efforts in , , and again in , but found those gentler orders weren’t working. They wrote, “those lesser sanctions and warnings have proven ineffective. Whether out of spite or incompetence, the NSCA repeatedly obstructed Stroz’s forensic evaluation, unable or unwilling to identify custodians, search terms, and devices.”
Stroz is an independent party selected to evaluate the NSCA’s electronic devices and data to find evidence in this case.
The court goes on to say, “Stroz discovered mass deletions and deletions of presumptively relevant documents occurring even after the Court imposed lesser sanctions in May Meanwhile, the NSCA refuses to take accountability, instead misrepresenting Stroz’s findings and blaming its prior counsel.”
The page court order, which I read through this morning, has some damning language against the NSCA. They ruled in CrossFit’s favor that the NSCA has:
- “deceived and continue to deceive the public and consumers regarding the safety and effectiveness of CrossFit training;”
- “caused a decline in CrossFit’s seminar revenue in the military, United States, and international fitness markets;”
- “were willful and malicious;”
- “have increased NSCA revenue, growth, and goodwill, while injuring CrossFit’s revenue, growth, and goodwill;”
- And that “the NSCA’s unfair competition and false advertising were a material cause of CrossFit’s damages”
Finally, let’s talk about the monetary award.
“Given the Court’s conclusion that every cost CrossFit seeks to recoveris attributable to the NSCA’s bad faith, the Court determines that the NSCA’s challengesare without merit.”
They go on to conclude that, “Accordingly, the Court AWARDS CrossFit monetary sanctions in the form of attorneys’ fees in the amount of $3,,”
For next steps, CrossFit and the NSCA are required to meet before the end of the year to iron out the value of the damages and file a joint report by January 14th. If they can’t it sounds like the court will rule on CrossFit’s behalf. Then, my favorite quote: “It is so ordered.”
The other big news of the day is that two-time champion Katrin Davidsdottir sat down with Shape Magazine to talk through her body image and how the CrossFit season changes how she looks at her body throughout the year. You probably didn’t miss that Davidsdottir was featured in ESPN The Magazine’s final print edition of their Body Issue, where she talked about her body, her first time posing naked, and why it’s important for women to embrace their bodies and find all shapes and levels of fitness to be beautiful.
And that’s it for news about CrossFit for Thursday, December 5th. Thanks for listening. Please be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and share. For WODDITY, I’m Ben Garves. We’ll chat tomorrow. Unless you’re internet stalking me. In which case, I’ll see you on yesterday’s episode.
By Ben Garves
Ben Garves is a digital product expert, author, entertainer, and activist. His portfolio of thought leadership in digital marketing and web experiences has included major clients like Microsoft, Google, Twitter, eBay, Facebook, and Bloomberg. He’s also a freelance health and fitness journalist with over stories written since , a podcaster with episodes to his name, and runs a YouTube channel with over fitness and activism-oriented videos and live streams. Ben has founded the Fitness is for Everyone™ initiative to raise awareness about social injustice in both racial inequality and socioeconomic disparity in access to quality fitness and nutrition options around the globe.View all of Ben Garvess posts.