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Is Squatting Injuring Powerlifters?

I feel like the majority of injuries i see that include the hips,spine,or knees are squat injuries. Even at old high level powerlifters like Ed Coan he had a hip replacement. Anyone have any good indications or experience on whether this is true or not? Im not saying it is so it just feels like what ive seen heads towards that way. No one powerlifts to make their joints healthier but if this is the case then ill have to change my priorities a bit which could lead me to a better healthier and stronger path down the road. Also for everyone who knows me im switching to semi sumo for deads since thats the only dl where i can consistently hold a completely neutral spine.

Ed Coan apparently had some sort of degenerative condition that affected his hips. There are some old guys who are still setting records and in some cases beating everyone in the open class, like Dave Ricks setting open squat records at 57 years old. The exception doesn’t prove the rule, but just because you squat doesn’t guarantee any sort of injury.

I don’t hear of many knee injuries as a result of deadlifting, but spinal injuries as a result of deadlifting might even be more common. Sumo deadlifts can mess your hips up too.

The reality is that no sport is safe, powerlifting actually has a lower injury rate than a lot of other sports like soccer, hockey, football, and all sorts of running. Even recreational sports can be dangerous. I know a guy who was playing baseball at an office barbecue and he happened to step in a hole in the ground when he was trying to catch the ball in the outfield, he twisted his knee and tore a bunch of ligaments and then broke his arm on the opposite side as he fell. Is recreational baseball dangerous? Nothing is safe, if you sit on your couch all day because you are scared then you will probably die young from a heart attack.

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In the context of powerlifting, of course this is the case with the knees, and probably hips, although SI joint injuries most certainly happen deadlifting. I’ve done it twice. Spine is split between squat and deadlift, depending on where on the spine you’re talking about. Pec, shoulder, tricep and elbow injuries mostly come from bench press. And deadlift is most likely to cause what I mentioned above, and of course bicep injuries.

Seems fairly obvious… Am I missing something? Certain lifts lend themselves to certain types of injuries, of course.

If you’re saying that the squat leads to the most injuries in general, I can’t agree. From my own experience and what I’ve observed over the last 15 years, I believe the squat is the most likely of the 3 big lifts to cause overuse/wear and tear injuries, with bench press coming in a close second. For traumatic injuries, I would rank deadlift first and bench press second. We’ve all seen the crazy bone breaks and knee tears on youtube videos of squatters, but those are pretty rare occurrences.

EDIT: And all that being said, I don’t have a way to quantify any of that. The overall takeaway probably should be that powerlifting grinds your joints into dust and isn’t a healthy sport in general. There isn’t a way to compete at a high level in powerlifting, and avoid all injuries. If you compete in this sport long enough, which is just generally a few short years, you’ll get hurt.

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I just had to post this:

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I agree with everyone above.

Deadlifting screwed me up. Ive fully recovered, but have Sciatica as a bit of a side effect, in which squatting really flares it up. But I like squatting, so I just suck it up and squat, and do rehab work after squat days.

But again, like everyone has said, sports in general can lead to injury. Before powerlifting my parents had me in gymnastics most of my younger-er years, and it was common to see broken/inflammed ankles, tendinitis in elbows, wrist sprains/fractures, shin splints, and rotator cuff injuries. Matter of fact, I pretty much quit gymnastics because I myself severely screwed up my ankle, but that was years ago, so I’m all dandy now.

So more or less, injuries come with the territory, in whatever sport you choose to participate in.

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From what I’ve seen hips and spine is a pretty even squat/DL split. Knees squat, obviously. I definitely wouldn’t put squat as the main cause of injury overall in powerlifting though.

I’m with @flipcollar with the overuse injuries, although I would venture that it’s probably pretty even between squat and bench.

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Bench for me gets lots of little injuries. I’m lucky to have had nothing major though

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I’m not a powerlifter, but I’ve lifted with a lot of banged-up powerlifters. Most of these guys are over 40, but there are a few younger guys I know who are jacked up pretty bad from the sport. I’ve been pretty happy to avoid all of those problems, but I only pursued max weights for a short period and my total time under the bar is less than 5 years of continuous barbell strength training.

I’ve come to realize that these are guys who know a lot about competing in powerlifting at a very high level, but not don’t necessarily know a lot about staying fit for non-powerlifting activities as we age or avoiding gross injury. There’s exceptions to this (Dave Ricks for sure, he’s incredible), but the writing is on the wall where I’ve trained. Priorities matter and it isn’t my place to judge what someone else wants to pursue.

I’ve also been practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu for the last year and a half under the instruction of a physical therapist with over 10 years of mat time who is also a Team USA master’s weightlifting gold medalist just a couple of years ago. He’s introduced me to the idea of “strong enough”. He’s also sunk home the idea that movement is medicine in almost all cases. Everyone should squat, deadlift, push, pull and move against resistance. Everyone who can, should, but that doesn’t mean pursue your 1RM over all else. He fixed my shoulders after two different doctors couldn’t help and told me to stop training. That didn’t help. They got better with the right training, aka the right movements.

He’s not strong enough to compete at the highest levels of strongman or powerlifting, but he could probably show up to a meet and put up a respectable performance without training specifically for it. He puts most of his training capital into jiu jitsu and he’s got a level of control over his movement that his daily training poses virtually no risk of gross injury to him.

He gets under the bar periodically and, despite his weightlifting background, has run 5/3/1 and is a big believer in the method. So are all of the guys at his gym who are over 40 and still moving like athletes and doing jiu jitsu at the very highest levels. None prioritize strength over all else, but they are all strong as shit and perfectly capable of killing most humans with their bare hands. That’s not an exaggeration at all.

My foot has been sprained for over a month now so my training’s been limited, but this guy has really influenced my thoughts on training and what being strong really means. I think I really felt the allure of powerlifting training my first few years under the bar, but I never got serious about competing in the sport. I just liked to move big weights and feel the progress of a new PR, a new lower weight on the scale or some combination thereof. That’s what makes training so awesome.

I basically took a year off from weights and came back to find that my strength had not diminished in any significant level at age 38 after a year+ of serious jiu jitsu training and being lifetime drug-free. That was an eye-opener for me. I just want to be strong enough to do what I want to do and keep a strength advantage over anyone of any age for the next decade or so, and hopefully a little longer than that.

I know that isn’t relevant to the sport of powerlifting, but I think there’s probably a lot of people out there just like me who feel the alllure of moving big weights but don’t necessarily want to compete.

If you want to compete at the highest levels of powerlifting you should listen to the people who do that. If you don’t, you should put some thought into your training priorities and the ROI on what you do in the gym.

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I’ve seen you mention the shoulder pain, and fixing it a couple times in your log and around the rest of the forum.

Did you have a specific “plan” or thought out approach, like a routine? Or did you just sorta include some pull aparts and stuff?

Pull-aparts and facepulls have been in my routine for a long time, and they still are. They didn’t help to prevent or fix shoulder pain on their own.

First doctor suggested it was tendonitis. Second doctors said he wasn’t sure without an MRI. Both doctors suggested it was from lifting weights and the only course of action they recommended was to no longer do any kind of heavy lifting. Months away from all pressing and pulling didn’t do anything.

My jits instructor (who is also a PT) thought it was the beginning of “rotator cuff drama” (his words) brought on by sitting at a desk too damn much at work with a classic hunched-over posture with my arms at a keyboard and mouse. He didn’t think it was from lifting at all.

Sot I did what my jits instructor/pro-bono PT told me to do. Shoulder rotation work with bands in four different planes of rotation (think internal and external with arms to the side and arms held 90 degrees). Bottoms up kettlebell presses with 15-20 lbs for high reps. Light weight pressing with various other implements. Lots and lots of reps. After about three months of doing this three or four times per week my shoulders feel as good as new.

I did more to stretch my upper lats too. They were really tight. I’m not sure if that was necessary to get rid of my shoulder pain but it sure didn’t hurt. It’s all connected so who knows?

The guy is a master of movement if there ever was one. Masters level education in physical therapy, international weightlifting gold medalist and soon-to-be jiu jitsu black belt under a school with the strictest promotion standards you can imagine. Movement is his jam.

Doctors know a lot, but not everything.

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Good answer!

Stretch the lat, do all the motions, don’t rush. Be skeptical of doctors.

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I think powerlifting gets a worse rap than it deserves with doctors. My uncle’s a doctor and he’s always considered my lifting to be a reckless hobby. He almost died when he crashed his bicycle the other year, but hey, at least his spine isn’t fused.

The best powerlifter I know personally does have a fused spine. He went to see Dr. Stuart McGill who is apparently the Yoda of patching together banged-up powerlifters. He’s banged-up in other ways besides his fused spine but he’s still competing at the highest levels of multiply PL’ing at age 50-ish. The strongest powerlifter I know personally is, as far as I know, out of the game for good. Can’t do much at all it seems, but he had his time in the sun at Westside and was a top SHW in the early 2000’s.

I think guys who are getting into the game today have a lot of benefits those guys didn’t, but there are still plenty of risks when you’re really pushing the envelope. Always will be.

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I once ended up sitting on a bench waiting for a bus with a pro-wrestler comparing injuries from our respective sports. He was dating a nurse. It’s the price paid for an active life.

Edit: I feel my original post was a little flip, since having posted it I remembered some precautions I took after my own injuries. I threw my back out doing O-lifts after squatting, something I never did again. And I once quit a martial arts club because the teacher had a fondness for a take down that twisted my knee twice, each time costing me a month of training.

Powerlifitng is injuring powerlifters.

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