Exertional Rhabdomyolysis in a 21-Year-Old Healthy Woman: A Case Report

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McKay, BD, Yeo, NM, Jenkins, NDM, Miramonti, AA, and Cramer, JT. Exertional rhabdomyolysis in a 21-year-old healthy woman: a case report. J Strength Cond Res 31(5): 1403–1410, 2017—The optimal resistance training program to elicit muscle hypertrophy has been recently debated and researched. Although 3 sets of 10 repetitions at 70–80% of the 1 repetition maximum (1RM) are widely recommended, recent studies have shown that low-load (∼30% 1RM) high-repetition (3 sets of 30–40 repetitions) resistance training can elicit similar muscular hypertrophy. Incidentally, this type of resistance training has gained popularity. In the process of testing this hypothesis in a research study in our laboratory, a subject was diagnosed with exertional rhabdomyolysis after completing a resistance training session that involved 3 sets to failure at 30% 1RM. Reviewed were the events leading up to and throughout the diagnosis of exertional rhabdomyolysis in a healthy recreationally-trained 21-year-old woman who was enrolled in a study that compared the acute effects of high-load low-repetition vs. low-load high-repetition resistance training. The subject completed a total of 143 repetitions of the bilateral dumbbell biceps curl exercise. Three days after exercise, she reported excessive muscle soreness and swelling and sought medical attention. She was briefly hospitalized and then discharged with instructions to take acetaminophen for soreness, drink plenty of water, rest, and monitor her creatine kinase (CK) concentrations. Changes in the subject's CK concentrations, ultrasound-determined muscle thickness, and echo intensity monitored over a 14-day period are reported. This case illustrates the potential risk of developing exertional rhabdomyolysis after a low-load high-repetition resistance training session in healthy, young, recreationally-trained women. The fact that exertional rhabdomyolysis is a possible outcome may warrant caution when prescribing this type of resistance exercise.

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