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Hospitalized Hawkeyes diagnosis? ‘Exertional rhabdomyolysis’

Kirk Ferentz

A couple of additional details are beginning to trickle in regarding the dozen Iowa football players hospitalized Monday evening, including the medical condition the players are reportedly suffering from.

According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the players have been diagnosed with a condition known as “exertional rhabdomyolysis“.  It is the same condition that hit two dozen Oregon high school football players in August of 2010.

Generally speaking, the condition is brought on by intense physical activity that follows a period of relative inactivity.  Technically, here’s what Dr. Google has to say about what’s apparently hit a sizable chunk of the Hawkeyes football roster:

Rhabdomyolysis is defined as “a degeneration of muscle cells and is characterized by a group of conditions including muscle pain, tenderness, weakness, and swelling; myoglobinuria (presence of myoglobin in the urine); and increased levels of sarcoplasmic (muscle) proteins and other muscle constituents in the blood.”

“One of the proteins released from damaged muscle cells is myoglobin.  High levels of myoglobin in the blood (myoglobinemia) result in a “spill over” of myoglobin into the urine (myoglobinuria).  In certain situations, myoglobin can precipitate in the kidneys and cause renal failure.”

“Equally dangerous can be the leakage of potassium into the bloodstream, which under certain circumstances can interfere with propagation of the heartbeat.  Another danger is posed by the possible leakage of excessive calcium into the cell, creating a state of hypocalcemia in the bloodstream, which can lead to irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, and other symptoms.”

As was stated in Iowa’s press release, all 12 of the players are doing fine, although they remain hospitalized.  It’s uncertain when they will be released.

Additionally, the names of the affected players are still unknown.

UPDATED 7:51 p.m. ET: Iowa released what it described as a clarification to earlier UI athletic department release regarding UI football student-athletes.

“The Hawkeye football players admitted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics were all participating in NCAA allowable winter workouts.  The symptoms, for which the student-athletes are being treated, are likely related to those workouts.”

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10 Responses to “Hospitalized Hawkeyes diagnosis? ‘Exertional rhabdomyolysis’”
  1. southernpatriots says: Jan 25, 2011 7:52 PM

    “Rhabdomyolysis” so that is what it is called? We had similar symptoms back in the stone age when we were forced into 3 and 4 a day intense practices after goofing off for the off season. Sorry to hear of this, but after some hospitalization and therapy, they all should be fine. We did not get hospitalization, and somehow we eventually became fine. Maybe this will bring about some changes in the practice routines? It was the 3 and 4 a day intense practices in the heat and humidity of the deep South that made us relish the idea of game day!

  2. lbijake says: Jan 25, 2011 10:49 PM

    Rhabdomyolysis can also lead to brain damage in later life as witnessed by above post.

  3. lilrabbi says: Jan 26, 2011 12:37 AM

    I read a comment in the first article on this saying that there was a “cloud of steroid use” over the Iowa program. In fact, there was one player kicked off the team for prescription pain killer use, another kicked off for marijuana. No roids in either case.

    And I first heard of this “exertional rhabdo…etc.” from Mike Florio on PFT talking about one time when he went for a really long run when he wasn’t in very good shape. I don’t think he takes steroids. :)

  4. jakeg88 says: Jan 26, 2011 1:32 AM

    Most likely due to players thinking they could hit the weights at their previous max after a couple months of inactivity. Strength training causes muscle tissue damage (hence the CK, potassium, myoglobin in the blood). The body responds by resynthesizing muscle and it overshoots (this is why you get stronger and gain muscle mass). I don’t think you’d get this from cardio, even if it were “3 or 4 a days”. You’d exhaust glycogen and bottom out your blood sugar before you reached rhabdomyolysis from cardio. Your “stone age” symptoms were from low blood sugar, dehydration, lactic acid buildup and cramps. Not this.

  5. cubano76 says: Jan 26, 2011 8:02 AM

    Doctor: “Coach Ferentz, Your players legs have sustained extensive trauma. Apparently their bodies were in the state of advanced atrophy, due to a period of extreme inactivity. But with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, I think there’s a good chance they may, one day, walk again.”

    Coach Ferentz: “This was supposed to be ‘The summer of Kirk’! The summer of Kirk!!!!!!!”

  6. lilrabbi says: Jan 26, 2011 10:38 AM

    If you think Mike Florio is a liar, you can take it up with him. Here’s his article from this past NFL offseason:

  7. sprizzle2182 says: Jan 26, 2011 10:48 AM

    Hope everyone is okay…this seems like something that could have been prevented by the strength/conditoning coach…

  8. BC says: Jan 26, 2011 11:49 AM

    Well, I knew there had to be a case made as to why I just stay completely inactive. I sure as heck don’t want that – it’s not a medical condition, man, that’s an eye chart! I’m sticking to billiards and darts, thanks very much.

  9. hrmlss says: Jan 26, 2011 12:05 PM

    I believe I read that some of the protein shakes can contribute to this.

  10. Deb says: Jan 27, 2011 9:40 PM

    Okay … so this is happening to well-conditioned athletes after they engage in strenuous exercise following a couple of months’ layoff?

    Just saw an intervew with the doctor who works on The Biggest Loser. He said they take 300-500-pound people who’ve been sedentary all their lives and quickly bring them up to six hours a day of rigorous training. They have medical teams standing by. I don’t think all those people wind up in the hospital. Something else must be going on. Maybe they’re not giving these players access to enough water.

    @PanchoHerreraFanClub …

    It’s irresponsible to start firing people until they find out the root cause of the problem.

    @southernpatriots …

    So how many of you are in there anyway? Is it a commenting consortium … or a Sybil kind of thing? Are you going to tell me “We are not amused”?

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