Rhabdomyolysis Symptoms and Causes

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What is rhabdomyolysis?

When it comes to fitness, there might be too much of a good thing. Motivated people might be persuaded by coaches and personal trainers to push beyond their body's limits, but not listening when the body rebels may lead to significant metabolic injuries that could be life threatening. Whether it is in a gym, training facility or in front of your television trying to keep up with a video, there are potential dangers from lifting, crunching, and straining too long and too hard. Lessons can be learned from elite athletes who have been known not to listen.

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 causes

Rhabdomyolysis is the result of massive muscle destruction, and there are many causes such as:

  • Extremely aggressive workouts lifting weights, extreme workout videos, or extreme cross-training. This is especially true if the participant goes from little activity to completing an hour or longer workout. Muscle cell damage causing kidney failure is possible for any person who overdoes an exercise program, and developing rhabdomyolysis should not be considered a badge of honor; nor should the wise decision to stop when appropriate be considered failure.
  • Injury suffered by victims of a blast injury from an earthquake, bombing, or lightning strike.
  • If a person falls and lies motionless for many hours (for example, due to a stroke , intoxication, or drug overdose) the weight of the body in effect crushes its own muscle and rhabdomyolysis occurs.
  • Non-injury causes include side effects of certain medications such as statins used to treat high cholesterol, and some psychiatric medications.

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Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/12/2017

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