NSCA Issues Correction on CrossFit Study Involved in Lawsuits

Two lawsuits related to a study about CrossFit published by NSCA in its Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research are still pending Photo by Thinkstock
<p>Two lawsuits related to a study about CrossFit published by NSCA in its Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research are still pending. (Photo by Thinkstock.)</p>

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Colorado Springs, Colorado, has issued a correction to a study disputed by CrossFit.

The erratum will appear in the October 2015 issue of the NSCA's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, where the study was originally published in 2013. The study's results are disputed in lawsuits filed by CrossFit and the owner of a Columbus, Ohio, CrossFit Gym involved in the research.

A panel of reviewers examined new information regarding questions raised on the reasons described in the article for subjects not completing the study, and the NSCA issued the erratum on the recommendation of the reviewers, according to a NSCA announcement.

The erratum reads as follows:

"In reference to Smith, MM, Sommer, AJ, Starkoff, BE, and Devor, ST. CrossFit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. J Strength Cond Res 27(11): 3159 – 3172, 2013, the authors have stated that the reasons for participants not completing follow-up testing, as reported in the article, were provided to the authors by the club owner. The club owner has denied that he provided this information.

"After the article was published, 10 of the 11 participants who did not complete the study have provided their reasons for not finishing, with only 2 mentioning injury or health conditions that prevented them from completing follow-up testing.

"In light of this information, injury rate should not be considered a factor in this study. This change does not affect the overall conclusion of the article."

In the NCSA article, Ohio State University researchers examined 53 CrossFit participants who participated in an annual 10-week challenge at a CrossFit owned by Mitch Potterf. The results showed CrossFit-based high-intensity power training significantly improved maximal aerobic capacity and body composition in subjects of both genders across all levels of fitness, according to the abstract.

The original article also stated that 11 subjects dropped out of the training program, and of those, two subjects cited time concerns and nine subjects (16 percent) cited overuse or injury for failing to complete the program.

The article stated the percentage was "notable" and "may call into question the risk-benefit ratio for such extreme training." Researchers also noted CrossFit-based programs "may not be worth the risk of injury and lost training time."

CrossFit filed a complaint against the NCSA in U.S. District Court in 2014, alleging that the claim in the study that nine participants dropped out of the study due to injury or overuse was false. CrossFit's complaint charges false advertising under the Lanham Act, false advertising under the California Business and Professions Code, and unfair competition under the California Business and Professions Code.

CrossFit's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the Element of Falsity filed on January 30 was denied by U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino on July 20. In the motion, CrossFit contended the information of 12 participants was not used to complete the study and obtained 10 sworn declarations from the participants. (Two study participants chose not to submit declarations.) Of the 10 declarations, none stated injury or overuse from the challenge as reasons for dropping out of the study.

NSCA argued to the court that fairness requires it be permitted to obtain testimony and evidence to allow it to contest the motion on its merits, which Sammartino cited in denying the motion as premature. The suit remains open and in discovery. A mandatory settlement conference is scheduled for March 10, 2016.

In February, Potterf filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against Ohio State University Professor Steven T. Devor and Ohio State University under the Federal False Claims Act. That suit also claims the conclusion that the nine who failed to test out because of "injury or overuse" is false. That case is in discovery.  

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