Respected orthopedic surgeon warns of CrossFit overload

Dr. Ali Al Suwaidi, a respected orthopedic surgeon, warns that intensive fitness regimes can lead to injuries if the right precautions aren't taken.

Alex Broun
by Alex Broun
21st September 2017

article:21st September 2017

The desire to become healthier is increasing day by day.

Over the years there has been a significant increase in people becoming health conscious across the world and the UAE is not far behind.


According to a 2016 Nielsen global survey, more than two-thirds of respondents in the UAE (67%) and Saudi Arabia (66%) said they actively make dietary choices to help prevent health conditions.

But people don’t just want to eat healthier; they are also looking to lead a more healthy lifestyle.

From the gym to CrossFit to yoga or even Zumba, old and young are adopting all forms of new and different workout options to stay fit.

An increasing number of people in the UAE, for example, are opting for CrossFit, a strength and conditioning programme characterised by a mix of aerobic exercises, body-weight training and Olympic weightlifting.

But while it’s great to introduce strength and weight training into your fitness regime, you must also remember that this intensive fitness training can sometimes lead to injuries if adequate preventive measures are not taken.

“Shoulder and neck injuries are common amongst athletes” says Dr Ali Al Suwaidi, consultant orthopedic surgeon at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

“While wrist injuries, particularly tendinitis around the wrist joint are less frequent, occasional rupture of the Pectoralis muscle of the shoulder occurs, mostly among body builders.”

However, often people are not even aware of the damage they are doing, confusing these joint injuries with muscle cramps.

“Muscle cramp is usually localised, involving the muscles and can be due to too much stress or tension,” continues Dr Ali.

“Symptoms of muscle cramps include weakness in the localised area, coordination problems between the affected muscle and the rest of the body, when the muscle is stretched due to some physical activity the pain increases, such as a calf strain.”

“However, joint injury is the injury that happens to the articulation of two or more bones. The pain in this case is deeper and intense and can happen even if a person is at rest.”

Working out requires well-toned and strong muscles all over the body. Therefore, people who are not fit or are overweight should start slow and get the body accustomed to working out and gradually move to intensive training.

“Always warm up before you start the workout and start slowly with weights,” adds Dr Ali. “The gradual progression of mild exercises to more strenuous exercises is important. In case of weight training, start with light weights and progress gradually.”

When performing strenuous exercises like CrossFit, working closely with a sports trainer is highly recommended. But you should also make sure you are listening to your body and how it feels.

Be persistent but also give your body time to adapt to the stress it is facing during the workout. According to Dr Ali: “It’s imperative to communicate closely with your trainer as he/she has to know your weaknesses, abilities and goals.

“Know when to stop if you experience muscle or joint pain. Most importantly, do not compare yourself with others around you and overload yourself; listen to your body and how it responds.

“In case of injuries, first just rest, and use ice compressions, and take analgesics. If the pain is severe, then the limb should be immobilised. If after a few weeks the injury is not getting better, it is advisable to be examined by a physician.”

Exercising regularly along with following a vigorous and balanced diet is not only essential for a healthy living, but it can also be life-saving in the long run.


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