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Adaptive CrossFit Open: What Affiliate Owners, Coaches and Judges Need to Know

March 3, 2021 by
Photo credit: 1st Phorm
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This year will mark the first time CrossFit has adaptive divisions for the Open. This is an amazing opportunity to include many CrossFit athletes who previously did not have a way to fairly compete in the Open. 

With these new divisions, gym owners and coaches need to be prepared for the new rules in the Adaptive Athlete Policy. Here are some of the most important details and some extra tips to run a smooth Open in your affiliate.

Start with the Adaptive Athlete Policy: Everything you need to know for the adaptive divisions is detailed in the adaptive rulebook, called the Adaptive Athlete Policy.  

There are eight adaptive competition divisions for the Open (16 total between men’s and women’s divisions). The divisions are easy to identify, as they are named for the type of condition or athletes in that division. 

  1. Adaptive: Upper Extremity
  2. Adaptive: Lower Extremity
  3. Adaptive: Neuromuscular
  4. Adaptive: Vision
  5. Adaptive: Short Stature
  6. Adaptive: Seated Athletes (with hip function)
  7. Adaptive: Seated Athletes (without hip function)
  8. Adaptive: Intellectual
Photo credit: Iko PB

Determining eligibility: There is no formal classification process for determining eligibility in the 2021 Open similar to what may occur in the paralympics, but CrossFit will provide guidance if needed for additional assistance with eligibility or choosing the appropriate division.   

Eligibility is determined by meeting the following three criteria:

  • Athletes must have a diagnosed and documented permanent impairment (e.g., health condition or diagnosis) from the list of 10 eligible impairments (listed down below); and
  • Have significant functional limitation(s) that prevent them from inclusion in fair competition against athletes in the non-adaptive divisions; and
  • Meet the minimum impairment criteria listed in the description of each specific division’s sport classes.

It is important to understand that having an impairment or condition is not the sole criterion for eligibility. On the other hand, the presence of a significant and permanent impairment not listed as one of the eligible impairments for competition (e.g., deafness) does not define an athlete as “adaptive” in general but rather defines the eligibility for competition in CrossFit events for 2021.

  • Key takeaway: There will be people who identify as adaptive athletes who do not qualify to compete in the adaptive divisions for the Open. But this is the case for any adaptive sport that intends to hold a fair competition. There will always be a balance between inclusion and fairness of the competition.

10 eligible impairments (aka conditions): These should not be confused with the competition divisions, although some are named the same. Having one of these 10 impairments meets the criteria for the first of the eligibility requirements listed above for the adaptive divisions:

  1. Ataxia
  2. Athetosis
  3. Hypertonia
  4. Impaired Passive Range of Movement
  5. Impaired Muscle Power
  6. Limb Deficiency
  7. Leg Length Difference
  8. Vision Impairment
  9. Short Stature
  10. Intellectual Disability

If an athlete has one of the 10 eligible impairments, then they also must meet the minimum impairment criteria, which is specific to each competition division. All divisions have unique criteria, so please refer to the Adaptive Athlete Policy for each competition division. 

More details:

There are no age groups or scaled options for the adaptive divisions, although these options may be offered at a later date if there is significant demand. Furthermore, there is no Games competition planned for this year.

  • Key takeaway: Get your athletes registered this year. The more adaptive athletes that register, the greater the chance of adding age groups, scaled options and additional stages of competition for next year.
Photo credit: Bryson Buehrer

The adaptive workouts may be different from the non-adaptive workouts.

  • All adaptive workouts have been adapted from the Rx (non-adaptive) version of the workout.  
  • The adaptive divisions may have slightly different workouts from each other and may differ from the Rx (non-adaptive) workout. 
  • Similar to the age groups and scaled workouts, each adaptive division may have its own weights or even its own unique movements.

Not only might the workouts be different from one adaptive division to another, but the specifics about whether the athlete can receive assistance with their equipment can differ as well. 

  • Some divisions are not permitted to get assistance, while others do permit assistance. 
  • If there are two or more adaptive athletes doing the Open in the same affiliate, it’s important that coaches know these rules and make sure everyone judging and watching does too.

To make it easier, each adaptive division will have its own scorecard with detailed descriptions of the movement standards. Review the scorecards and pay close attention to any possible unique movements that may be new to the Open workouts.

There are two seated athlete divisions, including seated athletes (with hip function) and seated athletes (without hip function).

  • These are the only two divisions in which none of the movements programmed are from the standing position (i.e., standing tall). 
  • All workout tasks are programmed to be performed from a seated position or are otherwise specified on the scorecard.
  • There will be movements that need to be performed in a wheelchair. 
  • Conversely, there are some movements that may be performed in a wheelchair or from another similar seated position. Always refer to the scorecard for details. 

Photo credit: Bryson Buehrer

Tips for judges:

  • The main thing to know and be comfortable with is that adaptive athletes can and, at times, should be no-repped.  
  • First, adaptive athletes are capable, badass people, and in the end, they are CrossFitters too. Being a CrossFit athlete means being held to the competition standards so we can test and retest, and fairly claim our spot on the leaderboard. No reps are part of the competition game.
  • Second, the Open must be judged with the strict standards that are upheld around the world. The Open adaptive divisions are not a “hand clapping” event. Not everyone is going to get a trophy, and they are definitely not an exhibition or showcase. These athletes are in a legitimate competition that will ultimately find the Fittest Adaptive Athlete on Earth. 
  • Key takeaway: Know the movement standards and assistance allowances for each division’s workouts and be ready to no-rep. Head Judge Boz will thank you!

Adaptive athletes cannot modify the Open workouts. A team of professionals has already adapted the Open workouts to versions that are fair for each division.

  • If an athlete cannot complete the workout due to a load (i.e., too heavy) or technique issue (i.e., cannot perform muscle-ups), then they have the option to modify the workout to complete it for fun, just like any athlete attempting an Rx Open workout. 
  • But, if they modify the workout for the reasons mentioned above, that score is not valid and may not be posted on the leaderboard.

Athletes have an option to submit a formal request for a modification. Modifications may be granted if the athlete has a diagnosed and documented unique range of motion (i.e., not a full lockout). 

  • A modification may also be requested for spotting assistance if there is a potential safety concern.
  • To submit a modification request, please review the instructions in Chapter 14.0, Modifications to Movement Standards, in the Adaptive Athlete Policy.  
  • Be aware that this is a request and it must be approved. Don’t assume your request will be granted.
  • If an athlete needs to submit a request for a modification, it is important to do it early. The request will take time and may require further investigation.

Adaptive athletes should film their workouts. While there is no requirement in the Adaptive Athlete Policy to film workouts, but do it anyway — for all workouts.

  • Why? If a workout score or athlete’s classification is called into question, their video is the only proof. Without video, the athlete’s score or eligibility may be disqualified.
  • Key takeaway: Use the same filming requirements from the Rx (non-adaptive) individuals and save all of those videos, just in case.

What if I have questions or need help?

CrossFit has set up a specific email address to answer your questions 

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