The Unknown Sports Injury That Could Kill You

High intensity interval training and sports can lead to rhabdo, an unknown sports injury that can be fatal.

High-intensity interval training and sports can lead to rhabdo, an unknown sports injury that can be fatal.

Sports injuries usually are not thought of as fatal. Concussions, stress fractures, and pulled muscles are all part of the usual repertoire of common sports injuries. Many sports injuries do not even come down to life or death. Some injuries, such as concussions, could result in life-long debilitation. There is one sports injury, however, that can prove to be fatal if left undetected and untreated.

This sports injury is widely unknown and not even talked about by many sports medicine professionals. It’s called rhabdomyolysis, or more commonly referred to as rhabdo. Rhabdo is extremely rare, and yet the athletic community is seeing a small but steady rise in the condition.

What Is Rhabdo?

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that occurs the same way many overuse injuries occur – through improper training and pushing oneself too hard. However, don’t go altering your training program to avoid this rare type of sports injury just yet.

Rhabdo may come about from overtraining or overtaxing muscles, but it requires a little more than pushing yourself past your limits. You have to push yourself so hard that you cause your muscle tissue to burst and leak a blood protein that clogs the kidneys. This protein is called myoglobin and it can cause kidney failure, even death. This can happen right after physical activity or can occur a few days after.

What Causes Rhabdo And What Are The Symptoms?

Rhabdo is caused by many problems, with muscle damage being the leading cause.

  • Trauma
  • Steroid use
  • Extreme body temperatures
  • Severe exertion
  • Severe dehydration

Symptoms include:

  • Dark or red-colored urine
  • Lack of urinating or feeling the need to urinate
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle stiffness or aching
  • Muscle tenderness

So How Hard Is Too Hard?

Rest assured, by overtraining or pushing yourself past your limits, you won’t necessarily get rhabdo. You can push yourself pretty hard and never come out with more than an overuse injury. After all, many athletes who compete in ultra-endurance races live to tell the tale.

So when should you start worrying about rhabdo?

Suddenly increasing your training intensity for extended periods of time and not taking the necessary recovery time can lead to rhabdo. Furthermore, not including a nutritious diet that offsets the calories burned, along with improper hydration can also lead to the sports injury.

As more intense physical activities become popular – such as Iron Mans, ultra-marathons, and CrossFit – the risk for rhabdo has also increased. These sports and training regimens are not necessarily the problem, however. Most people can accomplish doing these physical activities. As they become more widely known, however, more people who are not ready to partake in such physical exertion are doing these intense workouts without the proper knowledge, guidance, or gradually increased training. Many people are just jumping right in without easing themselves into high-intensity interval training, leading to severe exertion, overuse injuries, and rhabdo.

Avoiding And Preventing Sports Injury

No, you don’t have to quit your marathon running, CrossFit classes, or other high-intensity interval training. Statistics show that there are far more people doing these highly intense activities and coming out alive and even injury-free. However, that doesn’t mean jumping right into these workouts if you’re not accustomed to them or are a beginner. If you want to avoid rhabdo and other overuse sports injuries, gradually increase your training intensity. Also, make sure you eat a nutritious diet that gives you the adequate amount of calories. Take the rest time you need for your body to recover. Always remember to hydrate properly. Most importantly, seek advice from a professional who knows about sports injuries so that you can continue to be physically active and at the top of your game.