Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fibers that leads to the release of the protein myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is harmful to the kidney and often causes kidney damage. Rhabdo is usually associated with crush injuries such as in earthquakes and use of drugs like cocaine (from National Institutes of Health).
How big a concern is it?
“It is difficult to estimate the overall incidence or prevalence of exercise-induced rhabdo,” says Dr. Fady Hannah-Shmouni, who researched the syndrome for “Recurrent exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis” in the Canadian Medical Association journal. Awareness is increasing though, he says, because rhabdo is cropping up in war injuries, new laboratory techniques are making it easier to detect, and street drugs and medications related to rhabdo are increasingly widespread.
Rhabdo is sometimes called the Hidden Killer. Keep these tips in mind to avoid a killer workout:
- Ramp up slowly if you’re new to working out, or returning after a break.
- Stay hydrated.
- Work with a trainer who’s familiar with rhabdo and knows how to prevent it
- Listen to your body and STOP when it tells you to. It really does know best.
- Get medical help immediately if you have extreme soreness and pain and/or excessive swelling or cola-colored urine.