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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 beyond exhaustion.
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 or lacrosse.
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 aware.
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
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