For anyone still trying to achieve that summer body, here’s a cautionary tale to remember the next time you visit the gym.
A Texas teen, 17-year-old Jared Shamburger, recently got a new gym membership so he could work out and lift weights with his dad and brother. Shamburger wanted to “catch up” with his family who’ve been religiously visiting the gym for years. According to CBS News, Shamburger put in an intense 90-minute arm workout his first time at the weight rack but afterward, he noticed stiffness and soreness in his muscles that just didn’t feel normal, even following a hard workout.
Shamburger’s mom became worried when her son’s arms began to swell and he began to complain of severe pain. She called the family’s doctor after looking up his symptoms, convinced her son had a rare and very serious illness called rhabdomyolysis or rhabdo.
She was right.
The family rushed Shamburger to the hospital where he was diagnosed with rhabdo, a condition that causes the body to break down muscle tissue, releasing muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream. If patients aren’t able to flush their system in time, rhabdo can lead to kidney damage and even death.
While there are a number of things that can cause rhabdo — a severe trauma like a car accident, infection, dehydration — the fact that Shamburger fell victim to the illness after just one arm workout isn’t normal. Many athletes contract rhabdo after intense physical exertion — think marathoners, triathlon competitors, and Crossfit junkies — but getting rhabdo after an arm workout, even a 90-minute arm workout, is pretty rare.
Luckily, Shamburger’s family got him to the hospital in time. He spent five days receiving a steady stream of fluids to clean his kidneys and purge the toxins released from torn muscles from his body but hopefully, his story can serve as a warning for all of the gym rats out there putting in the work to achieve a toned summer bod.
The symptoms of rhabdo appear fairly quickly and include muscle stiffness, tenderness, and weakness; dark or red-colored urine, decreased urine output, fatigue, joint pain, seizures, and unintentional weight gain. The best way to prevent contracting rhabdo is to make sure you’re completely hydrated before, during, and after a workout. Snacking on a banana or another nutrient-rich food also helps your body to handle a more intense physical regimen. And always make sure to listen to your body — if you’re experiencing soreness or swelling, head to the doctor immediately, and give yourself enough rest-time in between difficult workouts for your body to recuperate.