Rhabdomyolysis – That’s a scary word to start my first Director’s blog with, but that word and the occurrence of rhabdomyolysis (“rhabdo” for short) in a cluster of 13 football players at the University of Iowa on Jan. 25 encapsulate so much of what Sports Medicine is about. Rhabdo is a condition where a lot of muscle is broken down and leads to some extreme endpoints like brown urine and potential kidney damage. While Rhabdo can occur from severe, traumatic accidents, we are hearing more about Rhabdo occurring in athletes because of excessive workouts (here is a great, well-written piece about Rhabdo). The fact that over a 24 hour period, 13, yes thirteen!, athletically gifted young men had to be hospitalized because of Rhabdo should rightly raise significant questions about the design and supervision of the training regimens these young men underwent.
This cluster of Rhabdo really emphasizes the necessary and critical interactions required to keep our athletes safe while they undergo intensive training. Most collegiate athletes must have the mindset that they are invulnerable which helps them to undergo intensive physical training; thus, most athletes are not in the best position to determine when they’ve had enough, especially if their coaches are driving them to even more intense exertion. No, it is up to the athletic training staff, the strength and conditioning staff, the team medical staff and specifically is the responsibility of the sport coaches to insure that the training that is required of their athletes is not dangerous. And that’s part of what we’re about at the Huffines – figuring out how we can help practitioners and Sports Medicine scientists communicate better and design better training strategies to help keep our athletes injury-free.
Yet somehow, in spite of all of those people involved in the training of the University of Iowa football players, something happened at those conditioning practices. We may never find out the direct cause or who was negligent, but we should remember that no physical training program should ever injure 13 players.