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I'm a sports medicine doctor. These 5 risky exercises can lead to injuries

Box jumps, kettlebells and bootcamp workouts. Sports medicine doctors discuss risky exercises that commonly lead to injuries and how to stay safe.

Exercise is one of the most important parts of maintaining overall health. However, it can also present risks and lead to injury.

Exercise-related injuries are often due to overuse, poor form or maxing out weight, Dr. Abigail Campbell, an orthopedic surgeon and the director of sports medicine at NYU Langone’s Center for Women’s Health, tells

Parts of the body that people commonly injure during exercise, and that send patients to orthopedists, include the shoulders, lower back and knees, TODAY previously reported.

Certain exercises or workouts are more dangerous than others, either because they are harder to do correctly and safely, or because there's a higher chance of accidents when performing them.

It’s always important to talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you have any concerns or questions about exercise, especially if you’ve had prior injuries.

It's also important to be aware of which exercises may pose a greater risk. What are some exercises that can be dangerous for anyone or require extra caution? Sports medicine experts share some of the activities that commonly cause exercise-related injuries and how to avoid them.

Box jumps

A box jump involves jumping from a standing position onto an elevated surface, such as a box or a stack of boxes. The explosive jumping movement can be an effective workout, but leaves a lot of room for error and is a common cause for injuries, the experts note.

"It's not that a box jump is a bad exercise, it can be great when done appropriately with the right form ... but I see a lot of patients who injure themselves inadvertently," Dr. Marie Schaefer, a sports medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells

As with any exercise, poor form can increase the risk of injury. "You’re driving power through your quads, so knees and ankles are gonna be the big things that are injured there," says Schaefer.

However, many box jump injuries happen due to accidents and falls, the experts note. Often the box is too high or boxes aren't stacked properly so it's easier to miss the jump and fall down from a decent height or land wrong, Schaefer explains.

When people don't make the jump, they often slam their tibias (shinbones) against the boxes which can be very painful, says Campbell.

“You can also end up catching the lip of the box with your foot and tripping (backward or forward)," says Schaefer. "I've seen ACL tears done that way. I've seen severe bone bruises, contusions, ankle sprains," Schaefer adds.

Always ensure you are doing box jumps properly and with the right equipment, the experts note. Campbell suggests seeing a personal trainer or physical therapist who can guide and supervise your workouts, or having a session with an online trainer if you aren't able to meet in person.

Kettlebell swing
TODAY Fitness contributor Stephanie Mansour demos a kettlebell swing.

Kettlebell swings

A kettlebell is a spherical weight with a handle on top. A kettlebell swing is performed by holding the weight with both hands in front of the body and swinging it down in a pendulum motion through the legs and driving it back up to shoulder height.

When done properly, the kettlebell swing can be an effective full-body exercise. "It's another one that can be really beneficial with impeccable form, but if you do things incorrectly, the injuries start to add up," says Schaefer. Often, people use kettlebells that are too heavy or have poor technique, or a combination of the two.

The result? Muscle strains, injuries or bruising of the wrists, hyperextension injuries to the elbow, and shoulder and low-back injuries due to poor technique, says Schaefer.

Accidents can also happen, such as dropping the kettlebell on your foot or swinging it into someone or something else, she adds.

"If you're using a kettlebell exercise for kind of a squatting type motion, make sure you're sitting back on your heels, firing your quads, and you're not pulling through your lower back," says Schaefer, adding that a trainer or physical therapist can help you achieve the proper form.

Extreme bootcamp workouts

"In general, with HIIT training bootcamp-type workouts there’s a pretty high incidence of injuries," says Campbell. "It's actually been reported, that (there's) around eight to 10 injuries per 1,000 training hours," Campbell adds.

Bootcamp-style workouts typically involve a combination of cardio and bodyweight or resistance exercises, often done at full intensity and in quick succession with minimal rest in between.

Injuries often occur because people are overdoing it or don't have the proper form or mechanics, says Campbell. However, any rapid movements like jumping or lunging can increase the risk of injuries to the joints or ligaments, especially in the lower body, she adds.

According to Schaefer, she has heard anecdotal reports that these injuries often occur toward the end of the intense workout. "As you fatigue, you start to lose your form and when you lose your form, that's when accidents happen," Schaefer adds.

Always check with a personal trainer or physical therapist before attempting a new workout, and make sure you notify any class instructors if you have prior injuries or conditions, the experts note. In most cases, instructors will help you achieve proper form — but if you need extra guidance, never hesitate to ask.

These high-intensity, explosive workouts can also get the heart beating very fast — especially if you go too hard or too long. According to the Cleveland Clinic, recent research has found evidence that extreme high-intensity exercise can increase the acute risk of sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death in people with underlying heart disease. (Anyone with a cardiac history should consult their doctor before starting an exercise routine).

Running (with poor training, form or footwear)

Running is a favorite among many for its wide range of physical and mental health benefits. While it can be an excellent cardio exercise, running can quickly become risky or lead to injuries due to overuse, poor training, poor form and even footwear.

"Overuse injuries typically occur in people that don’t have the proper strength foundation or they’re not cross-training, these include tendonitis in the knee or patellar tendonitis and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome," says Campbell.

Cross-training (such as cycling, strength training, swimming or yoga) is also very important, the experts note. “If you’re a runner, you also need to be building strength on the side,” says Campbell.

Overuse injuries are very common in beginner runners, the experts note. "I'll see people training for a half marathon and they have only been running for the last eight months (for example), and then they really overdo it on their knees," says Campbell.

If you're new to running, it's crucial to slowly work up to longer distances so the body can get adjusted, says Schaefer. "You can’t cheat or force it to happen ... you have to wait and your body will make those physiologic changes over time," she adds.

Although people can have different strides, there is such a thing as proper running form — and bad technique (such as hunching or landing on the wrong part of the foot) can increase the risk of injury, the experts note.

"Shoes are super important as well, especially for runners but for any sport," says Campbell. Wearing running shoes that aren't supportive enough or too worn out can result in ankle, knee and even hip issues, Campbell adds.

The experts encourage beginner runners to meet with a personal trainer or physical therapist who can assess their stride and help them achieve proper form.

Military press

The military press is similar to an overhead press, where a barbell with two weights on either end is lifted above the head, the experts note. Where it differs is that it calls for a tighter stance with the feet much closer together than the typical shoulder-width.

"The military press is actually very bad for the shoulder and puts a ton of force through the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff and through the cartilage," says Campbell, adding that she usually advises her patients away from this exercise, especially if they're in their thirties or forties and older. Resistance bands and cables tend to be much safer on the shoulders, she adds.

Heavy overhead lifting in general comes with risks, especially when people max out their weight or have poor form, says Campbell — these risks include sprains, bursitis, tendon ruptures and other injuries to the upper extremities.

“Anything that has a bar, it’s forcing you into a specific type of position, (versus) something where you have dumbbells or resistance bands and you can more easily change your form,” says Schaefer.

There's also a chance that you drop the barbell and quite literally crush the chest or head, says Schaefer, which could cause a concussion or traumatic injury. When performing exercises with a barbell, it's important to always have a spotter who can assist you to help prevent accidents.