Accidents do happen

If you haven’t heard by now, a very unfortunate incident occurred during the OC Throwdown on January 12th, 2014.  During a missed 235 lb snatch attempt, Kevin Ogar (a well-liked 2012 Regionals competitor and CrossFit Coach) failed to get out of the way of the falling bar.  Many of the details are up for debate but a few things are for certain.   The bar made contact with him and he ended up with a severed spine and no voluntary movement below the waist.

kevin-ogar-incident snap shot

A good write-up of the incident can be found here.

Since word (followed closely by video) of the incident spread, many questions have come up.

Did the bar hit the stack of plates then bounce into him?

Did it land on him first?

Did he have a preexisting injury?

Did this happen because of bad event programming?

I’ve watched the video numerous times and I have my own guess as to what happened.  Whether I’m right or wrong really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  The point of this article is not prove that my view on what happened is correct (here‘s a good write-up of the incident if that’s what you’re looking for).  What I would like to do is address claims that CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting are inherently dangerous.

One of the CrossFit’s biggest criticisms has always been that it’ll get you injured.  Many people believe this, at least in part, is because of sub-par coaching.   This subject deserves its own write up and that’s exactly what it got here.  Take a look if you want more on that topic.

Rather than going over the quality of coaching, what I want to talk about are the movements themselves.  The question is, when performed correctly and under the supervision of a knowledgeable instructor should a snatch, clean and jerk, or squat still be considered dangerous?”

Is this dangerous?

Is this dangerous?

To make a long story short, the answer is NO.  The movements that we regularly see in CrossFit and Olympic Weightlifting programs are not fundamentally dangerous*.  The media tends to make mountains out of molehills in order to gain readers and I believe that’s what’s happened in this case (and this one and this one).  I’m not saying what happened to Kevin Ogar is a “molehill.”  What I’m saying is that performing a snatch is not akin to playing Russian Roulette, contrary to what certain media outlets would have you believe.

*Ah, you noticed the asterisk?  There is some fine print here…

  • Frist, you should know what you’re doing.  If you don’t, find someone that does and pay them to supervise.
  • Second, you must be well aware of any preexisting injuries or mobility hindrances.  They need to be taken into account and either adjusted to/or worked around during training.
  • Last, you need to know your limit.  You may be able to snatch 185 lbs safely, but can you do it when you’re out of breath mid-workout?  If the answer is “eh, maybe” then you need to think twice before trying.

The moral of the story here is that “freak” accidents do happen, even during everyday activities (take sneezing for example).  Yes, injuries can occur while training and competing in Weightlifting and CrossFit.  However, they can be kept to a minimum if some basic precautions are taken.

What happened to Kevin Ogar on January 12th, 2014 at the OC Throwdown is heartbreaking.  He has a long road ahead of him and yet he will never be the same.  Kevin was uninsured at the time of the accident and the cost of medical treatment is mounting by the day.  Luckily, the CrossFit community has rallied and raised just under $300,000 in the week and a half since the incident.  If you feel so inclined, you may donate to his cause here.


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