Rhabdomyolysis Symptoms and Causes
Dr. Wedro Weighs In On the University of Iowa's Football Players Hospitalization
Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
They might be called the unlucky 13. At the end of a strenuous workout, a baker's dozen University of Iowa football players ended up in the hospital with rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo=skeleton +myo=muscle + lysis=breakdown), a condition in which muscles break down quickly and spill their contents into the blood stream. Myoglobin is a protein that is contained in muscle cells, and if enough is spilled into the blood stream, it can clog the kidney's filtering system and lead to kidney failure and a variety of other serious medical consequences and complications. While muscles routinely get sore after physical activity, rhabdomyolysis takes that muscle injury to a higher level.
Rhabdomyolysis is the result of massive muscle destruction. Weight lifting in the gym is not the only cause.
- It is often the major injury suffered by victims
of a blast injury from an earthquake, bombing, or lightning strike.
- It may be caused when a person falls and lies motionless for many hours and the weight of the body in effect crushes its own muscle. That scenario can happen in stroke victimsor an intoxicated person who has fallen with no one around to assist, and then are found many hours later. Non-injury causes include side effects of certain medications such as statinsused to treat high cholesteroland some psychiatric medications.