“CrossFit Junkies” be aware of Exertional Rhabdomyolysis!


The Oakville Sports Medicine Centre has certainly seen its share of CrossFit acute and overuse injuries in the past but all high intensity interval training participant should familiarize themselves with Exertional Rhabdomyolysis or “Rhabdo”. Over the last decade, we have seen the popularity of high interval training grow leaps and bounds. Clients of all ages are drawn to it by its combination of Olympic lifting, plyometrics, calisthenics, gymnastics and power lifting. They offer challenging short period workouts that constantly change in difficulty and routine. However, participants of these high intensity workouts should be aware of the risks of injury and potential long-term damage to the body, such as “Rhabdo”.

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition do to the breakdown of muscle, resulting in the death of muscle fibres. The release of their contents into the bloodstream overwhelm the renal system and cause damage to the kidneys. Thus limiting their ability to remove waste, resulting in kidney failure.

Exertional rhabdomyolysis is the degeneration of skeletal muscle caused by excessive exercise. It can be associated with individuals performing exercises they are unaccustomed to in high temperatures and humidity. Poor hydration levels before, during and after strenuous bouts of exercise, insufficient acclimatization, inadequate diet, lack of specific physical conditioning.

Participants suffering from “Rhabdo” often complain of pain and swelling of their muscles, especially in the shoulders, thighs or lower legs. Others complain of weakness or heaviness and will have difficulty moving all their limbs. Participants can present with abdominal cramping and suffer from nausea and vomiting. Severe cases can present with rapid heart rate, fever, confusion and impaired consciousness.

Examination of their urine can show a darkened redness or brownish colour. Urine output can be low and in severe cases nonexistent. Treatment is immediate transport to the emerg to try and prevent irreparable damage to the kidneys.

We have been pleasantly surprised with some CrossFit gyms taking the time to educate their clients about exertional rhabdomyolysis but there are ever more who don’t. This condition is not just related to CrossFit but other high intense exertional exercise classes. Ever heard of “Hot Yoga”.

Oakville Sports Medicine Centre, 250 Wyecroft Rd., Unit #16, Oakville, Ont., L6K 3T7

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