Can CrossFit Really Cause Kidney Damage?

crossfit rhabdomyolysis

CrossFit has a mascot known as Uncle Rhabdo, a muscle-y cartoon clown thats hooked up to a dialysis machine. He represents the downside of extreme fitness: a serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. When exercise utilizes all of the energy supply in the muscle cell, this leads to a chain of events culminating in the death of the cell, David A. Wang, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery, told Fox News. When the muscle cell dies, it leaks its contents into the bloodstream, which can end up damaging the kidneys.

The connection between CrossFit and rhabdomyolysis

CrossFit enthusiasts often push themselves through their workouts, working until failure,even when they feel pain, Tania Dempsey, M.D., of Armonk Integrative Medicine, told Fox News.Combine that intensity with CrossFits strenuous exercises, and youll see why CrossFitters are at risk of developing rhabdomyolysis.

Thats not to say every CrossFitter will meet Uncle Rhabdo, though. CrossFit could potentially put athletes in these situations, but the risk of rhabdomyolysis is not specific to CrossFit, Wang said. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Condition Research polled 132 CrossFitters and found 73.5 percent were injured at some point during training, but none reported dealing with rhabdomyolysis.


Should you stay away from CrossFit?

Not necessarily. I don’t think the average CrossFitter needs to be worried, said Kyle Lennon, M.D., of Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care. Rhabdomyolysis is rare, and the benefits of exercise generally faroutweigh the risks.

There are some habits you want to steer clear of, though, such as pushing yourself beyond your abilities or coming back from an injury and performing high reps with low weight until failure, Dempsey said.

Certain people like those taking statins to lower their cholesterol or those battling an illness should proceed with caution, while those with a metabolic muscle disorder should stay away from CrossFit altogether, Wang said. Dehydration also increases your risk of rhabdomyolysis, so avoid hitting the CrossFit box if your urine is the color of cola, Lennon said.


How to reduce your risk


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Here’s a related video you might find useful for those who are not so familiar with crossfit:


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