Rhabdomyolysis is the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle due to injury to muscle tissue. The destroyed muscle cells, released into the bloodstream, can damage the liver and kidneys, in extreme cases permanently.
The condition can be caused by excessive exercise or traumatic injury. What constitutes “excessive” exercise?
In January 2011, 13 University of Iowa football players were hospitalized and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis after a tough pre-season workout of 100 back squats, which involved holding a weighted barbell across your upper back. All the players recovered.
Rhabdomyolysis made headlines again in 2017 when three University of Oregon football players were hospitalized after intense workouts.
In 2021 a 23-Year-Old Nearly Needed Her Leg Amputated After a Spin Class Left Her with Rhabdomyolysis. Kaelyn Franco is a longtime athlete who played soccer and softball in high school and continued athletics in college. In September, a friend recommended that the recent graduate give a spin class a try, and she took her first one on Sept. 15.
Usually, rhabdomyolysis is rare and occurs in isolation in athletes, although other reports of teams being affected do exist.
How Common Is Rhabdomyolysis?
About 26,000 cases of rhabdomyolysis are reported in the United States each year.
Who Can Get Rhabdomyolysis?
Rhabdomyolysis can happen to anyone, but certain groups have a higher risk than others of developing the condition. People with an increased chance of getting rhabdomyolysis includes:
- Endurance athletes
- Service members
- Older people
What Causes Rhabdomyolysis?
Rhabdomyolysis is always triggered by muscle injury. This injury can have physical, chemical, or genetic causes. Anything that damages the muscles can cause this condition.
What Are The Symptoms Of Rhabdomyolysis?
Rhabdomyolysis symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually develop one to three days after the muscle injury, though some people may not even notice muscle soreness. The main signs of rhabdomyolysis include:
- Muscle swelling
- Weak, tender, and sore muscles.
- Dark urine that is brown, or red
Can You Prevent Rhabdomyolysis?
You may not be able to prevent rhabdomyolysis that occurs as a result of an accident. You can reduce your risk of developing exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis. To lower your risk of getting rhabdomyolysis, you should:
- Start an exercise program slowly. If you feel incredibly sore or tired during a workout, stop and rest. Don’t push yourself beyond safe limits.
- Stay hydrated and avoid getting overheated.
- Don’t consume high doses of supplements containing creatine or drink highly caffeinated energy drinks before working out.
- Don’t abuse alcohol or take illegal drugs.
- Talk to your doctor about any medications you’re taking that may increase your risk of developing rhabdomyolysis. Be especially careful if you have diabetes or liver disease.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
If you continue to have muscle pain, weakness, or swelling a few days after exercise, you should call your doctor right away. Rhabdomyolysis is a severe condition that requires immediate medical attention.