CrossFit's "dirty little secret" could kill you

Illustration for article titled CrossFits dirty little secret could kill you

Over at Medium, physical therapy professor Eric Robertson has written a fascinating piece about "exertional rhabdomyolysis" (a.k.a. "Rhabdo"), a devastating condition that results when physically fit people push their bodies so hard their muscle cells burst, flooding their kidneys with dangerous, or even deadly, levels of protein. Once thought to crop up mainly in elite athletes (and rarely, at that), Robertson observes that Rhabdo has become a troubling trend among CrossFitters.

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The piece is loaded with tons of sound advice and clear-cut information not just for CrossFitters, but anyone engaged in a training regimen that pushes their bodies to the absolute physical limit:

So what is rhabdomyolysis exactly? Under extreme conditions your muscles cells explode. They die. They leach protein out into the blood stream, including one form called myoglobin. Ever stalwart, your kidneys take up the job of clearing these dangerous proteins from the blood. Why? It’s just what they do. Unfortunately, myoglobin proteins aren’t designed to be in the blood in the first place and they can easily overload the kidney. This can produce injury or death to all or part of the kidney in a short amount of time, and is potentially lethal. Locally, the muscles are left damaged and dying. Swelling ensues and weakness occurs as pressure builds around the remaining muscle cells. Your body’s systems that normally can assist with this local muscle damage are now offline trying to help you not die. If you get to this stage, you’re in serious trouble.

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Read more at Medium.

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DISCUSSION

This is an old myth about Crossfitting.

Rhabdo can and does occur at the rate of almost never: i.e. in about the same percentage of ANY exertional activity. I've been doing Crossfit for about 4 years, off & on, and have NEVER met anyone who has ever known a fellow Crossfitter who has gotten Rhabdo.

I've never understood why some people go out of their way to bash on Crossfit.

The CF community is made up of really great, friendly, helpful people of all ages, fitness levels, and occupations. There's no people who strut around talking shit, posing, & belittling others like you'd find in a globo-gym. This is in part because everyone is dog-tired after every workout, so there's just not any room for ego. The person next to you has given their all, just as you have. The guys who can't deal with having their ego knocked down every day simply do not last in Crossfit, so those who remain are those who are friendly, down-to-earth, and lacking in unwarranted braggadocio.

It's also bothersome that those few people who talk shit about Crossfit whenever the topic comes up are always COMPLETELY uninformed on anything that we actually do.

It's basically just getting together with a few of your friends and exercising with good intensity for around 10-30min using daily variety made up of any physical activity you can think of.

We tend to use simple equipment like barbells, gymnastics rings, pullup bars, medicine balls, tires, dumbbells, logs, bodyweight, etc. Basically no machines except for a rowing machine. NO mirrors. Just some sort of combination of weightlifting/gymnastics/aerobic activity 3-5 times a week. That's it.

It's a great philosophy of working out based solely & completely on practical movements, variety, and evidence-based results. It is also one of the nicest groups of folks that you'll ever meet.