Some join a gym to sculpt their bodies; others are training for football tryouts, while still others are just trying to improve their overall health.
But amongst all of these reasons why people go to the gym, “to get seriously injured” is rarely one of them. Unfortunately, getting injured is an increasingly common occurrence in modern-day gyms. A recent University of Arkansas study found a 35 percent increase in gym and fitness center injuries in the past few years. Across the country, thousands of people are injured annually in gyms and exercise classes, suffering injuries ranging from slip and falls to broken bones to blindness.
Routine exercise is vital to maintaining overall health and well-being, and this post is by no means meant to dissuade you from going to the gym. However, when working out, there are several risks and potential hazards of which you should be aware. If you are able to understand and recognize common risks at the gym, you will be better able to avoid falling victim to them.
Common Risks to Watch Out For
Malfunctioning equipment. Regardless of how good your form is when working out, you will be at risk for injury if the equipment at your gym is old or defective. Machines may be used by hundreds of members each day, so they can deteriorate and malfunction quickly. Gym staff should regularly inspect machines for damage and to prevent potential upcoming failures.
You can reduce your chances of being hurt by dangerous equipment by alerting staff when something appears amiss. If you notice anything suspicious on a machine you are using—such as frayed wires or loose parts—stop working out immediately and report it.
Weightlifting machines. Even when they are functioning perfectly, not all machines are safe to use. Many machines commonly featured at gyms should be avoided entirely, according to health professionals.
You should refrain from using cable pull-downs, which can damage your upper spine. Avoid seated crunch machines, machine abductors, and abdominal rotation machines, as this type of equipment can hurt your lower back. If you have any health or physical problems, consult a staff member before using any weightlifting machines.
High-intensity classes. Classes like CrossFit and boot camp are popular, but can put you at risk for serious injury if you aren’t at peak physical fitness. While trying to keep up with the trainer, many exhausted students forget to use proper form and hurt themselves.
Take a class that is suited to your level of fitness—you’ll end up getting a better workout while reducing your chances of damaging your neck, back, and shoulders. If you want to take higher intensity classes, be sure to prepare for them by getting into shape on your own beforehand. When participating in such classes, stop immediately if something feels wrong. Everyone has different limitations, and it’s much better to admit you are not able to execute a move than risk injury.
Infections. Bacteria breeds quickly on shared equipment like cardio equipment, weights, and yoga mats. Locker rooms can be particularly hospitable breeding grounds for germs and bacteria that cause athlete’s foot, warts, and brittle nails.
To guard yourself from infection, always wipe down communal equipment both before and after use. Wear flip-flops in the shower, pool, and locker room areas—never walk around barefoot. Do not use a towel that has touched the floor, as this could transfer harmful bacteria to your body.
Tripping and falling. As you run, jump, and carry objects around a crowded workout area, you are at risk for stumbling and falling. Equally risky are slippery areas, such as pools and locker rooms.
Protect yourself from trip-and-fall accidents by always being aware of tripping hazards like free weights and gym bags. Tread carefully in locker and pool areas.
Unqualified trainers. There are many online companies that offer fitness trainer certifications to wannabe trainers who complete a brief test and pay a fee. Not only will unqualified trainers be less effective in helping you towards your fitness goals, they are far less likely to be able to provide you with appropriate instructions and guidelines for safe workout practices.
Always ask to see degrees and certificates before hiring a trainer or taking a class. Make sure they are up-to-date and come from reputable establishments such as the American Council on Exercise or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned athlete in great shape—there’s always opportunity for accidents while working out at a gym. You can avoid injury, infection, and other mishaps while exercising by following safety procedures and working out responsibly.
However, if you do suffer injury or illness—whether it’s because of defective equipment, unsafe or unsanitary conditions, or negligent staff members—talk to a personal injury lawyer. Liability waivers can make it difficult to hold fitness companies accountable for injuries and accidents, but an experienced lawyer can help protect your rights and make sure you receive just reparation. With fair compensation, you’ll have the financial support you need to cover medical expenses and get back on track to pursuing your physical fitness goals.
About the Author:
Ben Murphey is a personal injury lawyer and a partner at the firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. Mr. Murphey has 10.0 Superb AVVO rating, was named Top 1% of Car Accident Attorneys by Car Accident Lawyer, and was named a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers in 2014. Mr. Murphey is based in South Florida but represents people and businesses across the state who have been harmed by the wrongful acts of others.