A Series of Unfortunate Events

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

I’ve been thinking about this for 3 weeks, and now that my friend Jeff Evans has been the latest to befall an unfortunate pec injury on the ring dips at Regionals, I feel compelled to throw in my 2 cents as to why I believe they have been so prevalent.

I think the cause is multi-factorial so I will start with the factors that I believe contribute the least and work to what I think is the biggest reason.

1. Some speculate PEDs, steroids, or whatever you want to call them. They do cause muscular development to out pace that of the other soft tissues, such as tendons and ligaments. This places those soft tissues at risk for rupture/tears. Theoretically, PEDs could also cause the muscle to become too powerful for itself and tear within the muscle belly as well. I would lean towards this if the incidence was lower, but there have been so many, and some from people I know aren’t cheating, so I don’t buy this one.
2. Another reason stated is not enough exposure to ring dips and time under tension at the bottom of the dip. While this may have accounted for some, most of these guys do a generous amount of muscle-ups a week, and many of the ones I know personally have ring dips in their programs weekly.
3. Not enough exposure to the range of motion required by the standard. I typically practice my ring dips touching my shoulder to the ring at the bottom. The Regional standard is the shoulder must pass below the top of the elbow. For people with longer levers like myself, that often means the shoulder must go below the top of the ring as well. This is harder and will place more stress at the front of the shoulder (why I personally don’t like to do them that way). Another Regional standard was the 15ft. height the rings were hanging from. While there was a strap to hit to complete the rep that helped to stabilize the rings, they may still have required more stabilization than the athletes were used to on shorter rings. The ones I spoke to however, didn’t notice this.
4. So why all the men and no women?! Well
Men typically weigh more, which causes a greater load to the tissue. They weigh more because they’re stronger though right? Well that works against them a little too. They’re also strong enough to do dips with their forearms more vertical, which places more stress at the anterior shoulder and utilizes more pec over triceps. Lastly, they’re strong enough to use the stretch reflex in the bottom of the dip more often than women. This eccentric loading into a highly lengthened position of the pec major and then a quick turn around into concentric loading to press back out is what essentially causes a failure of the tissue. Partner that with them going as fast as they can, while using a kip that increases the force at the bottom on game day, and it increases the loading further.

Now onto my main causative factor… But first, why I chose this reason is because we saw ring dips at the Games in 2012 and the Regionals in 2014 and I don’t remember a single pec tear. The standards in 2014 were also the same, people probably did even fewer ring dips in their programming then, and the guys were arguably still stronger than the women.

5. The last reason I believe is responsible… “a series of unfortunate events”. Event 1 and then the other movement in Event 2 (dumbbell snatches) were unfortunately coupled in the right way (or wrong way) to fatigue all of the other anterior stabilizers of the shoulder, leaving the pec major vulnerable. Maybe even more vulnerable by week 3, considering how many times some of the athletes may have tested the workouts at home by now. I’d account the injuries coming into the event to this. To elaborate, the weighted chest to bar pull-ups fatigue some important muscles that attach at the anterior shoulder including the lats, coracobrachialis, subscap, and teres major; while the handstand push-ups fatigue the anterior deltoid and depending on the angle some of the upper pec major. The bigger problem though, is the fatigue of the bicep from the dumbbell snatch directly coupled with the dips. Most of the men I watched are strong enough to decelerate the dumbbell using a good amount of bicep and also snatch with their thumb facing forward. This makes the movement more bicep intensive than when a more pronated grip is used, especially at high speeds. The bicep performs elbow flexion and also shoulder flexion. As the athletes descend into the bottom of the dip, the bicep and the pec major are eccentrically loaded and lengthened into shoulder extension (the opposite direction). With the bicep already being fatigued, the pec major is left to do more of the work of reversing the motion, pressing back out of the dip, stabilizing the anterior shoulder, and adducting to keep the rings together. In some cases (currently about 30) it can’t handle all of that and a strain or tear can occur. At this point it’s too many to call them outliers I’d say.

Now I’m not claiming I’m without a doubt right on this. My number 4 and 5 are probably pretty equal in cause, the more I think about it. But if it was the combination of movements, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen it. I certainly didn’t. When I first looked at the event it seemed like an eloquent and sexy couplet (yes that’s how I describe programming sometimes). For the general public I don’t think these movements together would be an issue. It’s the speed and force these athletes are capable of that make it an issue. A speed that only increases during the height of competition. Even so, to be on the safe side I wouldn’t recommend affiliates to program them together. I also hope people consider the compounding effects one movement can have on one another in general. Especially when combined with intensity, and take their workout velocity down a notch accordingly.

That was probably worth more like a quarter of my cents, but there you have it! I also wish a speedy recovery to all of those injured!

26 Responses to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

  • Ryan Robertson

    Really well written, thanks for sharing this! 🙂

    Reply
  • Brock

    Fantastic summary. Covered everything I could think to ask. Well done.

    Reply
    • Talayna Fortunato

      Thanks! Hope it helps some people understand and learn.

      Reply
  • Baker Leavitt

    Great write up

    Reply
  • Dawn Regnier Sibilia

    Thanks for your opinion, it quenched my curiousity!!

    Reply
  • Norman Applegate

    Nice to see you back…

    Reply
  • Alacia

    Good read…..I was wondering why all the injuries were occurring while doing movements all regional athletes could perform with no problem…

    Reply
  • brandon Delafosse

    Thanks.! Makes Perfect since and definately gives me something to focus on during similar movements being coupled moving forward.

    Reply
  • Alfredo Cifredo Jr

    I really love to read all your posts. Big fan! Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  • Stan

    Do you think knowing the event prior to the competition caused increased practice of the described movements increasing the chance of microtraumas or even minor injuries (Sam dancer) prior to the competition ending up in failure of the structure when it counted?

    Reply
  • Jason

    Such a great article, for a non elite athlete who loves CrossFit it’s very informative given so many comments are out on social media.
    One question Talayna: I would certainly class you in the elite status of CrossFit and with your knowledge do you think the workout should have been changed for Regional week 3, possibly week 2. Tough question I know.

    Reply
    • Talayna Fortunato

      That’s so hard to say. If they did that it would mean some athletes were given a different test. Although at my first regionals in 2010, every single Regional had their own programming! Maybe something to try first would have been switching even 1 and 2.

      Reply
  • Bryan Essig

    I was just saying the exact same thing the other day. There is a lot more going on right now other than the programming. Also, we don’t have all the data of which athletes had previous pec issues prior to starting regionals. The comments saying that Dave Castro programming something dangerous to the athletes is like saying that playing American football should be illegal due to the amount of ACL injuries per year.

    Reply
  • Carrie

    Great breakdown of the movements and the A&P involved. Being in the medical field I love hearing about the body and the way everything works or doesn’t work together from a medical standpoint as well. I am just an average Crossfitter who loves Crossfit for how much better it makes me feel. This also helps me be more mindful when I start introducing new movements into my routine as well. There are too many of us that overdo it before our bodies are ready to accept a heavier load or strong enough for a more challenging movement. If more of us would take time to understand the impact of our different muscle groups it may assist in unnecessary injury. Would love to see you breakdown other movements like the above as well. Thanks so much for the information.

    Reply
  • PK

    Great write up.
    1. Why did no one talk about all the pec injuries during the regionals Event 6 in 2014? We saw the exact same deal. That year in the Mid-Atlantic alone 4 men withdrew after event 6. Scan through the other regions and you will see the same trend.

    2. My belief is that the standard of having to reach to that strap for full extension is the culprit. When they make the measurement everyone is fresh and easily able to hit full reach with a protracted scap. But as they fatigue, they can still lock out the elbow with the tricep, but will fall short of reaching the strap because they aren’t able to get to the scaps out of retraction. So they give a hard push with the pec/pec minor to make that reach. You see a similar loss of range of motion with The Open HSPU standard. Fresh the heals will be three inches above that line. But 20 reps in, the heels are barely 1/4″ over. Fatigue sets is and posture starts to fail.

    We have been doing “Elizabeth” since the creation of CrossFit. And I have never seen a single person tear a pec. Even with a bicep to ring and elbow lockout for the range of motion. It wasn’t till they added the “reach to the strap” that this started.

    I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this. I feel like a crazy person that no one ever brings it up.

    Reply
  • Bryan Baker

    Nice and well written I agree. Very informative. What are your thoughts on the lack of horizontal pulling and pushing, especially explosive, we sometimes lack in our programming? Think that may have any part in it?

    Reply
    • Talayna Fortunato

      For those that are lacking that in their programming most definitely. A lot of these athletes account for that and add in accessories for it. Many recreational athletes do not though and I do feel that leads to a risk of injury overtime as imbalances build.

      Reply
  • Jon Phillips

    Fantastic article Talayna! I’m not going to lie – when I first read this sentence: “As the athletes descend into the bottom of the dip, the bicep and the pec major are eccentrically loaded and lengthened into shoulder extension…” I paused for over a minute trying to imagine the bicep contracting eccentrically in a dip. And then I was like, “Ohhhh… proximal end.” *face palm*

    Reply
  • Pete Miller

    I tore my pec muscle doing ring dips 2 years ago in the same place as all these athletes. I have never taken a PED or steroid. The box I go to routinely does ring dips and prior I was very capable of doing them in high volume. The workout that my incident occurred was a similar 21-15-9 inwhich I was doing the movement for speed. I was kipping the dips and the tear occurred at the top or lock out portion of the movement. Personally I feel that these injuries are a result of a movement that isn’t meant for speed being done at a ferocious pace with a powerful contraction of the muscle at its peak. Just my 2 cents from personal experience

    Reply
    • Talayna Fortunato

      Thank you for the input. I appreciate your insight. It is possible that kipping dips beyond a certain speed are just risky!

      Reply
    • Talayna Fortunato

      Thank you for the input. I appreciate your insight. It is possible that kipping dips beyond a certain speed are just risky!

      Reply
  • Jay

    Wicked smaht, T. Well done. Thanks.

    Reply

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