Can Weight Training Kill You? We Examine Rhabdomyolysis

Can weightlifting trigger disease and death?

We are told that weightlifting brings many health benefits, both for the physical and mental aspects.

It is no surprise to learn that weightlifting increases strength, improves the cardiovascular system, burns more calories and can help improve cognitive function.

However, a report from Texas, U.S has caused concern and sent shock waves trough the weight lifting community.


A teenage male who had recently started bodybuilding is under the spotlight because he contracted a deadly illness.

The cause of the illness stems from working too hard in the gym. Excessive weightlifting was the route cause of the illness.

It seems the 17 year old male was inspired by his father and older brother to start weightlifting.

This inspiration led to being increasingly competitive. Thus he started hitting the gym very hard.

The teenager reported feelings of being extremely sore. This may not seem like anything unusual to many gym fanatics.

Especially because he had been working out for 90 minutes in a gym which is located around Houston.


However, what made this case different was that not just were his muscles feeling sore from straining them as most people would experience it.

In his case, his body was feeling swollen and it was very painful to just touch his body.

For many people, this is just a case of going too hard too soon, and the teenager admits he was trying to catch up with his more experienced family members.

Even though they had many years experience on him, the teen was determined to get up to their size. Once the pain and the feelings of soreness and swelling had not subsided after a few days his mother contacted a doctor.


His mothers instinct was that he had rhabdomyolysis, as it turns out she was correct.

Her quick thinking placed her son in to Hospital where he was monitored for five days due to his life threatening condition.

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition which causes the muscle tissues to die rapidly, this results in the protein myoglobin being released in to the blood which is damaging to the kidneys.

It can also cause paralysis, and while it is rare, always check to see how long your muscles are aching for and to check the color of your urine.

Rhabdomyolysis can be responsible for high concentrations of potassium in the blood which may lead to cardiac arrest.

Some cases of rhabdomyolysis are the result of overexertion. If not treated, the condition can lead to death. [1]

How to spot Rhabdomyolysis

Okay, Rhabdomyolysis is not particularly commonplace but it does happen and it can potentially kill you.

Therefore, let’s look at some of the hints your body may give you to go and get checked out. Because studies show that prompt treatment often provides a good outcome.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to spot the signs or symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis due to the cause or the area of the body affected.

However, there are a few more commonly known symptoms that could trigger further investigation if you are concerned.

So look out for these:

  • Muscle pain – lower back, shoulders, thighs
  • Muscle weakness – particularly finding limb movement difficult
  • Less urine – when it does it may be red or dark brown

Now, Rhabdomyolysis affects people for other reasons than lifting too much iron. Therefore, muscular pain is not always a symptom.

With this in mind, you would be sensible to see if you start presenting these following symptoms:

  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Fever with rapid heart rate
  • Confusion, lack of consciousness, dehydration

Make sure you get tested as soon as you feel that you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Typically you would take a blood test and a urine test.

Available Treatments

If you are quick to have Rhabdomyolysis diagnosed you can pretty much walk away free of problems after treatment.

Even any kidney damage can potentially be reversed by doctors, and most causes behind Rhabdomyolysis are also reversible.

Treatment will include intravenous fluids to promote urine production and prevent kidney failure.

In some cases dialysis may be required to help your kidneys filter waste products.

Other procedures may include electrolyte management to protect the heart and organs.

If the Rhabdomyolysis has caused a loss of circulation and threatens nerve damage or death surgical procedures will be required with the possibility of you being in the intensive care unit. [2]




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