CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret
Eric Robertson

9.21.15 —

i am currently in the hospital for rhabdomyolysis. i joined a cross fit gym in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and was excited to start a program in a space that has such high reviews about the community of support they have developed. the trainers there indeed are very friendly and all the participants are super supportive.

over my first few weeks, whenever a new workout was introduced, time as taken to show the proper form and to remind me to take it slow. i usually cut the Rx weight by 4 and took breaks when nearing my max. the workouts were expectedly tough.

after a workout a few days ago with extension pull-ups (assisted ups and slow-release downs) followed by various other box training and ring dips, i left feeling tired, but good.

that night, i woke up to severe pain in the muscles around my elbows and an inability to open my arms fully. couldn’t sleep all night due to the pain. next day was sore, painful and some minor swelling.

2nd day, my arms swelled up like popeye, and i luckily happened upon this article. as i searched more, i found multiple blogs reporting similar symptoms from similar workouts. they all said to go to the hospital immediately.

i honestly thought that to be extreme, but got scared enough to heed the advice. when i checked in at the ER less than 36 hours ago, my arms were insane looking, my urine looked like coca cola, and my blood work came back 70,000 for creatine kasine. (normal levels are about 70–150). they immediately put me on IV fluids, and i’ve been admitted ever since.

this is not a simple, “self-diagnose and treat” kind of condition. from what i’ve gleaned, mortality rate from rhabdo is 5%. that’s 1 in 20 die from it!

my renal (kidney) specialist said he sees VERY MANY cases of rhabdo from cross fit and other extreme workouts. he was not anti-cross fit, nor am i.

my concern, besides unknowingly putting my life in danger and now facing tens of thousands of emergency room bills, is that no one even mentioned this as a possibility.

there should be rhabdo posters in all cross fit gyms and instruction to EVERY participant about the dangers and symptoms of rhabdo, and that hospitalization and days of IV treatment are necessary to prevent kidney failure when it occurs.

to discount the arguments in the original article is irresponsible and clearly defensive.

i was new, supported, only doing 1 to 2 classes per week, and taking it way easier than everyone in the class. even this milder level of training had just enough muscle trauma to result in rhabdo. a simple search online shows that it is indeed quite common for cross fit participants.

why the whitewashing? just be honest, educate the participants regularly, and let them make informed decisions about how to best protect their health when doing cross fit and when potentially experiencing signs of rhabdomyolysis…