Still entrenched in the CrossFit culture of deplete, endure, repeat, she quieted the alarms and stoically pressed on to go to work. It didn’t take long to realize she not only couldn’t bend her arms, they also had no strength. She wasn’t able to treat her patients. By that evening, her slender arms had continued to swell into plump hotdogs of ache and regret, and she was starting to come to the realization that the morning’s danger alarms were legitimate.
Unbelievably, it took another 24 hours for her professional sense to break through the grip of the CrossFit culture, and seek medical attention. She was diagnosed with acute rhabdomyolysis, and ended up in the hospital for over a week. While in the emergency department they tested her creatinine kinase (CPK) levels. Normal is about 100. Her CPK levels were more than 45,000, a number that indicated damage to the kidneys.
While in the hospital, she called to cancel her CrossFit membership. As is standard when something is cancelled, the CrossFit coach asked the reason for her decision. She replied, “I’m in the hospital.” The instructor quickly asked, “Is it rhabdo?”
Rhadbo is short for Rhabdomyolysis and its description reads like something from a comic book (exploding muscle cells poisoning your kidneys, eventually killing you). It’s caused by consistent, extreme exertion.
The NYT ran an article on this in 2005:
Yet six months later Mr. Anderson, a former Army Ranger, was back in the gym, performing the very exercises that nearly killed him. “I see pushing my body to the point where the muscles destroy themselves as a huge benefit of CrossFit,” he said.
I think it’s safe to say that anyone that works out until their muscles explode isn’t playing with a full deck. These people are addicted to exercise. But isn’t working out a good thing? Well, for most people so is losing weight, yet we have anorexia.
One amusing consequence of these stories is that people might use it as an excuse for not working out at all. Or at least to make themselves feel better about not working out.