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When did we jump from encouraging someone to improve themselves to hazing? This had got to be one of the biggest straw men I've ever seen.



Really? After nearly 6 years on Hacker News? I should get an award! (Though I suspect you are exaggerating, so there will be no prize for me tonight.)

Since you don't like it, take out all references to it. I said "I agree that people are responsible for their own well-being in training [but] they are also partially responsible for the well-being of others." Surely that's a stand-alone statement.

The rest of my post gave examples in an exercise context where I think it would be unconscionable to say "Each person is responsible for their own actions. ... you have no one to blame but yourself."

The entire point of the essay is, of course, that at some point "encouraging someone to improve themselves" may become "encouraging someone to hurt themselves". At some point there can be a justifiable claim of culpability, and coaches have been sued for bad advice.

To deny that culpability doesn't exist, and that it's only the person's recklessness which caused the problem is to be blind to both ethics and the law.


I don't deny that culpability exists. I think that normal CrossFit gyms won't come close to meeting the criteria for culpability. I've been to several gyms and I've never seen anything even close.


The statement you objected to was "the competitive culture pressures you into continuing." You vociferously denied the concept - "Hogwash!" - and denied any sense of culpability ("you have no one to blame but yourself").

Now you say that there may be culpability, but that "it won't come close in normal gyms".

Thank you for changing your mind!

In any case, the evidence presented is that involuntary urination, throwing up, and rhabdomyolysis are three example of things which occur at a higher rate at CrossFit gyms than others.

These are not healthy things for the body, and are to be avoided, yes? If the competitive culture pressure is not an influence for the increased rate, then what is? Poor training practices?

Or is the presented data incorrect?


> the competitive culture pressures you into continuing

This was referring to CrossFit competitive pressure specifically, not general competitive pressure. I've been involved with CrossFit since 2007 and I've never seen anything close to that level of pressure. You invoked the legal definition of culpability, and if you can't establish that, then my statement "you have no one to blame but yourself" is exactly what you have to come back to. Even TFA doesn't invoke that argument, because that would change the focus to individual trainers rather than CrossFit as an organization. Are there trainers that would lose a culpability lawsuit? Mayyyyyybe. But those are going to be very rare and extreme cases that are impossible for CrossFit HQ to prevent. Also, that's why gyms have you sign waivers. The waiver informs you in no uncertain terms that this stuff is dangerous.

So, we agree that culpability is not the subject here. That brings us to your new point: that it's somehow a problem that CrossFit has a higher rate of rhabdo. That's like saying that surfers are more likely to be the victims of shark attacks. No duh. IOTTMCO. Shark attacks are not healthy things for the body and are to be avoided, yes? Of course. Looking life with that view effectively paralyzes you. Everything is risky, so it's not about avoiding risky things. It's about making a tradeoff.

> Or is the presented data incorrect?

There is no presented data. TFA was nothing but anecdotes. Scary, sensationalist anecdotes. And for every one of those, I've got thousands of overwhelmingly positive anecdotes. In my case I got stronger and more fit. My body fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure decreased and I have actual data to prove it. I also noticed increased quickness, agility, and reaction time in everyday life.

So we agree there is a risk. But I (and many others) believe that the rewards are more than worth the risk. If you are one of the rare people who has gotten rhabdo while doing CrossFit, then you probably will be less comfortable with that tradeoff. And that's ok too.


> You invoked the legal definition of culpability

I invoked culpability. There a legal definition, yes, but there's also a moral meaning. I meant to include both, and not limit it to legal.

> TFA doesn't invoke that argument, because that would change the focus to individual trainers rather than CrossFit as an organization

Why would it?

You need only look at the history of consumer protection laws to see counter-examples. Consider the classic "Unsafe at Any Speed". It covers many examples where automotive manufacturers know that certain practices were unsafe, but did not change them, for various reasons. Some were considered unimportant and ignored, others were "too expensive", or bad user interface design, or putting design over engineering.

One chapter was even about how drivers were considered to be the only ones to blame for accidents and injuries. But the manufacturer, more than the car dealer, must share culpability.

I do not believe that what the car companies were doing was illegal, so they were not legally culpable. They certainly were morally culpable, and we passed laws to make those practices be illegal. Now we have much, much safer cars than in the 1950s.

You see this pattern in other consumer protection laws, like in the pharmaceutical industry. If a drug has known serious side-effects, but the company decides to hide it, or doesn't have the systems set up to handle reports about side-effects, then it's the company which is most culpable, and not the doctor who prescribed the drug.

Sound familiar?

Culpability can be shared. I have no problems saying that the person exercising, the trainer, and the organization who licenses the name and training style, may have shared culpability. Even if it isn't illegal.

> that's why gyms have you sign waivers. The waiver informs you in no uncertain terms that this stuff is dangerous.

Ahh, so the car companies should have required people to sign a paper saying "driving is dangerous. I accept all responsibility", and not been forced to change a thing. Great solution!

Three states don't allow liability waivers. Does this mean that CrossFit or any other sports can't exist in those three states? (Since Montana, Louisiana, and Vermont have sports clubs, I conclude the answer is "no.")

I don't think you understand how the law regards liability. Shark attacks are an inherent risk in surfing. Getting hit by a baseball is an inherent risk in playing baseball.

But some things are not inherent risks. If a coach forces the surf team to hit the waves when there's been a shark report, and someone gets attacked by a shark, then that's not an inherent risk. (Eg, once while at the beach the life guards called us out of the water because a helicopter flying by saw a shark in the water.)

Let's look at concussion. More people have had concussions than rhabdomyolysis, so it's easier to find information about it.

See for example, "new research suggests that the medical staffs responsible for protecting college athletes often don't have the authority to do so." ( http://chronicle.com/article/Trainers-Butt-Heads-With/141333... ), which will likely affect an NCAA class-action concussion lawsuit http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/jeremy-fowle...

Or there's the tentative NFL settlement, where "The NFL has agreed to spend close to $800 million to diagnose and compensate potentially thousands of retired players who develop dementia and other brain disorders they blame on the violent, bone-crunching collisions that pro football has long celebrated in its highlight reels."

Or the new lawsuit by four ex-NFL players suing "the league and its helmet maker, claiming they hid information about the dangers of brain injury." http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000237961/article/four-...

You want to bet that they signed liability waivers?

Thus, we see that people who are engaged in sports, where there's of course an inherent risk of danger, and where they have signed liability waivers, can still reasonably sue because of other reasons.

And the reason - I am not a lawyer - is likely because at some point it's not an inherent risk, like you think it is, but caused by negligence or even gross and criminal negligence.

Here's what's supposed to happen in a case like this. (In my optimistic world.) CrossFit-the-organization has now heard that there might be a problem. They gather information about the rates of rhabdomyolysis and other severe training problems, while also working to ensure that this purported issue is either not real, or to realize that it is an issue and work to reduce it.

Failure to do so is, in my non-lawyer, pro-consumer viewpoint, gross negligence and therefore not subject to liability waivers, because that information should be available in order for people to make an informed decision.

> TFA was nothing but anecdotes

More correctly, it's epidemological evidence that may or may not indicate a deeper persistent risk. Others have written about the same topic. It appears widely understood that some members view vomiting during a workout as a 'badge of honor', as http://health.yahoo.net/articles/fitness/inside-cult-crossfi... says. This doesn't sound like simple friend-of-a-friend hearsay.

Given persistent "anecdotes" as you call it, coming from what appears to be non-correlated sources, means it's worth investigating. Just like early reports of Pinto rear-end accidents, or of the fatal side-effects of fenfluramine/phentermine, lead to changes. And lawsuits.

That's not to say that early reports are necessarily correct, or even presumptively correct. My point is that if it's correct, then 1) culpability doesn't have to lie only in the person exercising, but also in the trainer and/or the organization, and 2) failure to investigate and possibly rectify this possibility is (or at least should be) negligence in its own right.

Your argument point seem to be that 1) it isn't correct and 2) there are plenty of benefits and must be included. Those are both good points, but only related to the point I was making.

> In my case I got stronger and more fit.

Congratulations. For me it was dancing. About 25 hours per week at my peak, and over the years including salsa, swing, Scottish country dance, Swedish folk dance, Argentinian tango, modern dance, and flamenco.

> I (and many others) believe that the rewards are more than worth the risk

Your logic cannot be used as the basis for a good sense of morality. For one, you haven't established that these are on the same balance scale.

If there is a systemic problem with the current CrossFit training method then it might be that a small change leads to a 50x reduction in rhabdomyolysis rates while not affecting the benefits for people like you. Double-plus-good!

For another, if known risks have been deliberately concealed from you, then you cannot make a proper risk/reward judgement.

And as you pointed out, your observations are subject to survivor bias.


The original subject of this sub-thread was the role of competitive pressure. Your long and informative post has gone off into different territory where it sounds like we are in agreement.

> some members view vomiting during a workout as a 'badge of honor'

This is a different issue from the question of rhabdo. It's obviously a much less serious condition. And for the record, I don't hold that view.

> For me it was dancing.

Awesome, me too. Mostly Argentine Tango. If you've danced in NYC recently, we might have seen each other. :)




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