Exertional Rhabdomyolysis in the Athlete: A Clinical Review

David C. Tietze, James Borchers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Context:Exertional rhabdomyolysis is a relatively uncommon but potentially fatal condition affecting athletes that requires prompt recognition and appropriate management.Evidence Acquisition:A search of the PubMed database from 2003 to 2013 using the term exertional rhabdomyolysis was performed. Further evaluation of the bibliographies of articles expanded the evidence.Study Design:Clinical review.Level of Evidence:Level 3.Results:Exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) is a relatively uncommon condition with an incidence of approximately 29.9 per 100,000 patient years but can have very serious consequences of muscle ischemia, cardiac arrhythmia, and death. The athlete will have pain, weakness, and swelling in the muscles affected as well as significantly elevated levels of creatine kinase (CK). Hydration is the foundation for any athlete with ER; management can also include dialysis or surgery. Stratifying the athlete into high- or low-risk categories can determine if further workup is warranted.Conclusion:Exertional rhabdomyolysis evaluation requires a history, physical examination, and serology for definitive diagnosis. Treatment modalities should include rest and hydration. Return to play and future workup should be determined by the risk stratification of the athlete. Strength-of-Recommendation Taxonomy (SORT): C.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-339
Number of pages4
JournalSports Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014


  • athlete
  • exertional rhabdomyolysis
  • review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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