Injury and the Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum

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CrossFit Neck Injury

You know that least-talked-about model for determining who is fit and who isn’t? Yup, it’s the idea that there is a spectrum on which we all have place. On one extreme end there is true sickness, and on the opposite end there is true fitness, while somewhere in the middle is this idea of “wellness.”

Logic, then, says that the more fit one is, the less sick he/she is. Also, the more sick one is, the less fit he/she is. The model doesn’t just stop there, either. With concrete health markers like body fat percentage, triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol, etc., we can get an aggregate level of sickness or fitness.

An interesting thought experiment with this is the role of injury in this spectrum. At least temporarily, it seems as though injury is one abrupt way to slide down the continuum away from fitness. Though blood levels and such may remain unchanged, at least immediately, a significant injury could hinder fitness quite drastically in an instant.

If you disagree, let’s vacate the sickness-wellness-fitness continuum for a moment and put an injury to the test in some of CrossFit’s other fitness models. A broken foot would cut my agility in half, for example. A bulging disk would cripple nearly all 10 general physical skills, capacity in any metabolic pathway and make redundant virtually any activity that could come out of the hopper model. Recently, I tore my biceps and was inspired to write this article, in part, because I seemingly went from being an extremely fit individual to losing what felt like a fourth of my capacity almost in an instance.

Think about a neck injury, say from a car accident. One moment an athlete has a fitness level of X and literally has a fitness level of .5X moments after impact.

So, what does this mean?

It may mean nothing. Or, it could mean a great deal about how we go about our business. If we can agree that injury directly inhibits fitness in a very logical, scientific, CrossFit-style approach to the definition of fitness, it seems as though it’s a master worth listening to. Sure, Twinkies and pizza can eat away at one’s position on the sickness-wellness-fitness continuum, but not even nutrition that poor can compete with the speed at which a significant injury can take a bite out of one’s capacity.

If we’re going to be nutrition, sleep and hormone Nazis, shouldn’t we at least be injury police, too? Relative to the impact of the two on our fitness, it sure seems so. Now, I’m not saying that folks have no regard for injury, but I think it’s worth using the definition of fitness in the vernacular that we all know to elevate the importance of injury-free training.

What else can have such an impact on your position on the spectrum of sickness, wellness and fitness?

— Logan Gelbrich