I recently vacationed in Arizona with my in-laws, and had the the pleasure of putting them through two outdoor WODs. We used rocks instead of barbells, and incorporated as many bodyweight movements as possible. Everyone worked hard. Everyone had fun. Papa caught the CrossFit bug.
Shortly after finishing our second WOD, I was approached by my father-in-law with questions about the principles of CrossFit and logistics of joining a box near home. Now, Papa is by no means overweight or out of shape, but I can guarantee that most people (read: non-CrossFitters) would look at him at the young age of 65, with his tendency keep his weight too far forward while squatting, and immediately think "he should ABSOLUTELY not do CrossFit! He'll get hurt!" To these folks I say, "You're right, he might get hurt. And that's OK."
Now before you go freaking out and accusing me of elder abuse (Papa, that was totally a dig), hear me out. 70% of runners will sustain an injury during the course of their running career. 70%!!! Most people never receive formal instruction on how to run properly, most people never actually "practice" running, and most people who try it will get injured; expensive, air-filled shoes be damned. And yet, what is the first thing recommended when people want to "get in shape" or lose weight? Heck, that favorite cardio pastime even has an injury named after it: "runner's knee."
As a physical therapist I treat athletes from all disciples and of all calibers, and I can honestly say that injuries commonly seen in CrossFit are easier to treat than the most commonly sustained running injuries. Reason being, CrossFit lends itself to acute injuries that immediately let you know your form was bad and that you shouldn't do that again. Hurt your back while deadlifting? I can guarantee you won't let your back round next time. Conversely, running injuries, excepting tripping or the like, tend to be overuse injuries that take months to resolve and then often return secondary to the fact that you never actually fixed your crappy running form because you have no idea just how crappy it actually is.
With good coaching and individual accountability, CrossFit injuries can absolutely be minimized. But, given the demands of the activity, they can, and likely will still occur to some extent, and that's OK. We sit all day, we wear high-heeled shoes, we don't get enough sleep. Imparting a new stress onto this system can lead to a breakdown at times, because that is just how things works. Dr. Andrew Spina, a chiropractor out of Canada and founder of the FRC and FRR methods, boldly states, "You can't prevent injury, you can only prepare for it." I couldn't agree more.
Our nervous system isn't perfect. Our movement preparation is far from perfect. Variables lend themselves to accidents. Basketball players break their legs, soccer players get head-butted in the chest, gymnasts fall off the beam. We willingly accept the inherent risks of pretty much any sport, considering it worth the reward; be that reward a ZogSports t-shirt or a shiny, plastic trophy. CrossFit should be no different; possible rewards of increased strength, power, and overall health are absolutely worth the risk. People are going to get hurt while doing things, and that's ok. Those "CrossFit Fails" videos depict situations where there was either bad coaching, bad programming, poor personal decision making, or a combination of all three. They highlight the exceptions, not the rule.
I am by no means promoting reckless behavior and telling you to throw caution to the wind under the pretense that injury is inevetible. I'm simply attempting to paint a realistic picture. Find a box with good coaches, check your ego at the door, and understand that you might get hurt...and that's ok.