One of the most difficult-to-pronounce sports injuries has been in the news this week, following the hospitalization of Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy. The bronze medal winner of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games is recovering from a serious condition called Rhabdomyolysis.
Rhabdomyolysis (say it with us: raab-doh-my-oh-LIE-sus) is a condition that typically results from a severe muscle injury or overexertion, explains sports medicine specialist Dr. Steve Yoon, Director of orthobiologics and regenerative medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. Dr. Yoon says that Rhabdomyolysis occurs when muscle, “releases a protein called myoglobin into the blood stream which can be associated with achiness, extremity swelling, weakness, and possibly impaired kidney functioning.” According to a 2004 study cited by Physiopedia, an estimated 26,000 Rhabdomyolysis cases are reported annually in America.
Sports medicine researchers estimate that around 33% of Rhabdomyolysis cases result in kidney failure. Additional consequences can include heart arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, and, though rare, death.
According to Purdy’s Instagram updates, she was released on Monday after being in the hospital for nearly a week. “I was so strong up until last Saturday, now I can barely move my arms without fatigue. I’m going to be neck deep in healing. The recovery on this is supposed to take some time since the muscle fibers in both upper arms were damaged. But all of this is minor compared to what it could have been!” she posted on Instagram on October 31st.
If caught quickly and treated before symptoms get out of control, however, Rhabdomyolysis sufferers can survive without lasting damage. Here are five things you need to know about Rhabdomyolysis — including how to spot it, what to do if you get it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it from happening to you.