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The Secret Sports Injury that Nobody Talks About
The Secret Sports Injury that Nobody Talks About
By Adele Jackson-Gibson
MAY 3, 2017
Pulled muscles, torn ligaments, broken bones, a nasty case of the flu.
Those are the types of ailments that athletes fear. But theres another
condition that few ever talk about and even fewer understand, yet can have
far more frightening consequencesand its on the rise among athletes and
everyday gym goers.
Its called rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo for short. This potentially
life-threatening condition occurs when an athlete pushes herself so hard
in training or competition that she causes muscle tissue to burst and leak
myoglobin, a sticky blood protein that can clog the kidneys. Rhabdo can
hit immediately following a hard workout or game, or develop after days of
overtaxing the same muscle groups. Symptoms include muscle soreness,
weakness and swelling, particularly in the arms, abdominals and
quadriceps, along with vomiting, brown or Coca-Colacolored urine,
confusion, dehydration and, in the most acute cases, kidney failure.
While the condition is relatively rare, rhabdo has recently become more
prevalent, thanks to the rise in popularity of more intense training
regimens like iron-distance triathlons, CrossFit, military-style
conditioning and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Treatment for
rhabdo usually requires hospitalization, and while the syndrome is usually
reversible, it can prevent an athlete from training for several months to
up to a year, if not permanently.
Rhabdo has also become more of a concern lately in college sports, where
rigorous preseason routines have sent numerous athletes to the hospital in
the last few years; some have even died. The condition often affects
athletes who dont prepare properly for preseason and are then forced to
push through demanding training. Athletes with a mind-over-matter attitude
are especially at risk, since they are often not afraid of working out
Last fall, eight volleyball players from Texas Womens University were
hospitalized with rhabdo immediately after taking their annual fitness
tests. Several years earlier, in 2012, six female lacrosse athletes at
Ohio State were admitted to the emergency room after developing the
condition due to intense training.
Kelly Becker, one of the Ohio State lacrosse players diagnosed with
rhabdo, said the muscles in her arms were so painful, weak, swollen and
shaky after one day of training that she couldnt even write or drive her
car. She said she knew something was immediately wrong after practice that
day but didnt know what.
I had never heard of rhabdo, Becker told the Columbus Dispatch a year
after the incident.
While rhabdo is often foreign to pro and college athletes, there is one
community inordinately familiar with the condition: CrossFit, the popular
fitness sport that involves heavy Olympic weightlifting, gymnastic
movements, running, rowing and other demanding exercises. Since the nature
of competitive CrossFit is to push athletes to their physical limits, the
occurrence of rhabdo is more common than in sports like soccer, basketball
In fact, the CrossFit community has been the heavily criticized for
pushing its participants too far and prescribing a training regimen that,
especially for those who arent well-trained when starting classes, injury
is often hard to avoid.
Many CrossFitters know Uncle Rhabdo as a popular meme, featuring a
feverish, bleeding cartoon clown who is hooked up to a dialysis machine
next to his workout equipment.
There is also research suggesting that athletes with predominantly either
type II fast-twitch muscle fibers (such as sprinters and weightlifters) or
type I slow-twitch fibers (like marathon runners and other endurance
athletes) are at a higher risk for developing rhabdo if they follow an
exercise regimen not best suited to their tissue type. The data concludes
that its important for coaches and trainers to create conditioning
programs that align with athletes strengths and limitations.
The NCAA also recommends that coaches and trainers pay particular
attention to athletes who have pre-existing medical conditions like
sickle-cell trait, which can make one more susceptible to rhabdo.
Even though rhabdo is rare, it is deadly and can affect anyone who likes
to work out. Fortunately, its completely preventableso long as youre
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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