Two-time Games Teen Athlete Claire Doty Starts Recovery from Scoliosis Surgery and Rhabdomyolysis

August 18, 2022 by
Image Credit: Claire Doty, CrossFit Games
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Having quit competitive gymnastics, 11-year-old Claire Doty was looking for something new to fill her time. By the power of a Lauren Fisher and Julie Foucher YouTube video and doctor’s orders to keep her core and back strong to fight off her scoliosis from worsening, Doty found CrossFit. 

Of course, the new sport allowed Doty to maintain her physical health and have fun with movement as an 11-year-old should. But it also sparked a new passion for a sense of community, challenge, and competition–in fact, as soon as Doty learned about the CrossFit Games teen division, she knew that’s where she was headed and never looked back. 

Now, at 18-years-old, Doty has two Games appearances under her belt, 10th in 2019 in the 14-15 Girls division, and 16th in 2021 in the 16-17 Girls division. Regarding her time competing with the Fittest on Earth, Doty said,

  • “I know how much adversity I faced and how much I had to overcome just to get there,” Doty said. Her scoliosis, which was diagnosed around the same time she started, gave Doty occasional back pain during training. In addition, she subconsciously adapted to move in ways that accommodate her syndrome. “That alone makes me very proud though I wish circumstances could have been a lot different.”

Through all Doty’s years of CrossFit and the many highlights that come with it, she maintains that the best part of the sport for her is watching her own progress. 

  • “I think the most rewarding part of doing CrossFit is being able to look back and see just how far you have come,” Doty said. “I’m so thankful I found CrossFit at such a young age as it has tremendously improved my confidence in and outside of the gym!”
Photo credit: Ava Kitzi

However, Doty’s CrossFit progress came to a halt in February, when an annual x-ray showed the curvature in her spine was progressing, meaning she would have to undergo surgery. For Doty, this was a nightmare come true. 

  • Doty’s spine had a “60-degree curve on the top and a 45-degree curve on the bottom, which caused a large right rib prominence, uneven shoulders, uneven hips, kyphosis & (three inches of height loss).”
  • The surgery, which took nearly eight hours, fused Doty’s T3 to L2 with two rods and 20 surgical screws, among other adjustments.
Photo Credit: Claire Doty

After the surgery, Doty developed Rhabdomyolysis, most likely caused by laying on her front for so long on the operating table. Initially, doctors thought a tough workout right before surgery brought on the condition, but Doty had purposefully eased through her last gym session to take in the joy she finds in CrossFit, knowing she wouldn’t be able to exercise for a while.

Rhabdo aside, the surgery was a success, and Doty says the procedure has helped her balance her shoulders and hips. To add to the great news, Doty is expected to make a full recovery and be able to return to RX’ing CrossFit workouts after her recovery. 

While said recovery process will take upwards of a year, including 3 months without any “CrossFit” movements besides walking and biking, Doty is ready for the challenge and isn’t interested in any shortcuts. 

  • “The most important part of this recovery process, and any recovery process in general, will be listening to my body and taking a step back when it tells me to,” she said.

While Doty has her eyes set on getting back to RX CrossFit WODs, she isn’t sure whether or not a competitive career is in her future. Her number one priority, for now, is keeping her back safe and healthy, but says if her body allows it, she may reevaluate competitive plans. 

Whether or not Doty decides to compete, the passion she found all those years ago through a YouTube video holds true today, and she’s bound to be a lifelong CrossFitter, just with a straighter back now!

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