Beware of Boot Camp Fitness Classes

Orthopedic Warning: Beware of Boot Camp Fitness Classes

Article By Dr. Ty E. Richardson of Louisville Orthopaedic Clinic | Featured on Angie’s List

An orthopedic surgeon warns of injury risks associated with the popular, so-called boot camp class.

A couple of years ago, I was driving through Louisville’s Seneca Park to go mountain biking in Cherokee. I looked out over one of the soccer fields and saw the strangest sight. Huge 4-foot-tall tractor tires, sections of anchor rope about a foot thick and 10-feet long, rectangular blocks of wood a couple of feet tall, and some kettle bell weights were arranged in a circle in the grass. I thought the military recruits were doing some training in the park.

Hours later when I rode by on my bike, I realized it wasn’t soldiers flipping those truck tires over and jumping off of wooden blocks, it was a bunch of 30- to 40-year-old suburbanites in cotton T-shirts. I watched for a minute and wondered how many of the “less fit” people dragging around the sections of anchor rope would be in my office the next week with something torn, strained, or just plain hurting. This was my introduction to the so-called Boot Camp.

What is Boot Camp?

The boot camp style of exercise class has been exploding in popularity. These classes have many advantages over traditional exercise. The classes are relatively cheap, require little equipment, are often held outdoors and have a very social atmosphere.

The exercises themselves blend military-style calisthenics with other body-weight exercises such as lunges, squats, sprints, push-ups, and every Marine’s favorite, the squat-thrust. Many are attracted to the unconventional nature of these boot camps in a desire to break up the tedium of their gym routine or home-based exercise.

High Rate of Sports Injuries

Unfortunately, along with the explosion in popularity of the boot camps, there have also been a growing number of orthopedic injuries associated with these classes. Even in the military, the incidence of injuries in real boot camp is high. The Pentagon reported in a study of all recruits from 2004 to 2010 a 28-percent injury rate. Recruits are typically in the age range of teens to people in their early 20’s.

How do you think 45-year-old bankers and secretaries will fare doing jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and sprints on Saturday morning? The problem is that exercise needs to be personalized to the needs, goals, and abilities of the individual. Putting a group of 20 to 30 people with vastly differing levels of fitness through the same program will result in some of them being extremely bored, and some of them heading to the doctor.

Most of these classes have the following problems:

  • No screening process
  • No health review
  • No medical history

You simply sign a waiver and start throwing around some truck tires.

The Worst Boot Camp Case I’ve Treated

In the last couple of years, I have cared for dozens of patients with boot camp related injuries. The worst was a 30-year-old woman who fell off a wood block while doing jump up/jump downs. It’s a great quad exercise, but requires excellent balance skills. She suffered a severe fracture of her elbow that required surgery, leaving her with loss of motion and strength in that arm.

I have also seen meniscal tears, rotator cuff tears, achilles tendon ruptures, lumbar strains, wrist fractures, and stress fractures of the foot. Many of these injuries occur with exercises that require advanced motor skills to execute properly and when done poorly, result in injury.

Exercise Caution

I don’t want to leave the impression that all boot camps are dangerous and should be stopped. On the contrary, I believe they are an exciting new format that may bring many new people into exercise and fitness. I simply believe that caution must be used before signing up, especially for people who are in poor shape and are just beginning to exercise. Please ask the following questions before signing up:

1. Is there a screening process for individuals to determine their fitness baseline?
2. What is the goal of the class? Is the class heavy on cardio or strength? Is the class heavy on core strength or plyometrics? Know what you are getting into before starting a new workout.
3. What is the target age range for this class?
4. Is this class appropriate for beginner, intermediate, and/or advanced levels?
5. How many trainers will be present to provide individualized instruction?
6. Will modifications be taught for more difficult exercises?

Find a class that is safe, well supervised, and takes into account your fitness level and you should be able to improve your health with little chance of injury. You just have to be selective and do the research.

New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.

New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.

Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.

If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.