Hey guys and gals, it’s about time we had another talk about this thing called “Rhabdo.” I know that many of us have had some informal talks during class about this condition…I also know that many of you give the eyes-glazed-over look when we talk about things that are not directly related to the WOD. No worries, we’ll clarify everything here. It’s about to get serious, so pay attention!
Rhabdo is short for rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition where damaged skeletal muscle tissue is broken down rapidly. These broken down pieces then get released into the bloodstream (where they don’t belong), and can cause complications with the kidneys – even full-on kidney failure.
Now that you have an idea of what it is, how can someone get it? Well, that depends as there are many different kinds of rhabdo. You can check out the different kinds on Wikipedia, but the one we are concerned with is ‘exertional.’ This basically means that you over-exert your muscles during exercise – far past the point that is beneficial and that you are conditioned for. This can happen in any exercise setting: collegiate level, pro-level, YMCA, Gold’s Gym, P90X, Insanity, and yes, even CrossFit. The research shows that you are more prone to getting it under the following conditions: dehydration, alcohol withdrawal, tetanus (rusty nails anyone??), and those on cholesterol lowering meds like Statins. There are a number of others, but those are the most common.
Unfortunately, there is no way to pinpoint exactly what a rhabdo candidate looks like. It happens to the extremely well-conditioned athlete as well as the first-timer, the old and the young, male and female. Basically, it does not discriminate. There are a few signs and symptoms you can watch out for: extreme muscle soreness that seems to get worse as the days go on, weakness and swelling of affected muscles, and the most common – coca-cola colored urine. Listen up, this is NO JOKE: if your pee looks like tea or coke, do not call me – call 911 or have someone take you to the ER. Better to be safe than sorry.
I am not trying to scare anyone off or make you a bunch of worry warts. However, I tell you all this because one of our members, Mark H., recently suffered from this after a WOD with us. He contacted me Sunday night to say he had been in the hospital and was diagnosed with it. After seeing the warning sign of cola-colored urine, he admitted himself to the ER in good time and was able to head off any kidney damage before it took hold. He is on the road to recovery and is anxious to get back in here with us, but we wanted to use this as an educational piece to shed some light on something that hit home for the both of us. Many times we think “ah, that can’t happen to me.” Well, it very well can.
So, how can we work to prevent this from happening to anyone in the future? Simple: COMMUNICATION. First off, and I can’t stress this enough, you all need to learn to communicate with your own body and be aware of how it’s running. If you leave here (or arrive here) and something feels out of the ordinary (we all know the normal WOD feeling by now), stay on point and take care of yourself, watching for worsening symptoms. This is not only relevant for rhabdo, but more common injuries as well. Next, communicate how you feel to me. I can only read one mind – my own, much to my wife’s chagrin. Like we always talk about, stay within your limits where you are comfortable. Don’t use this as a crutch to never progress, just be smart. Lastly, listen to your coach. If I tell you to scale something down to an easier progression, or a lighter weight, or a shorter box, pay attention. I do these things for your safety and logical progression.
Remember, injuries, like rhabdo, can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. You safest defense is to be well nourished, hydrated, and up to speed on how your body is feeling and performing. Topped off with a dose of good coaching, you should be fine. Let’s all pray for a full and speedy recovery for Mark and remain aware of how to take good care of ourselves.