Athlete's Extreme Workout Lands Him in the Hospital

February 20, 2013

Dr. Nitin Sawheny discusses progress with patient Jack Damrill

OKLAHOMA CITY  - Jack Damrill, 44, is no novice athlete. He referees MLS soccer matches and has several triathlons and marathons under his belt. That’s why after a 55-minute workout with a new personal trainer, he expected a little soreness. But nothing like this.

“It was the most extreme pain in my arms I’ve ever felt,” said Damrill.

His triceps swelled to the size of grapefruits and he couldn’t lift his arms to even brush his teeth. “My wife had to help me get my shirt over my head,” he said. Damrill was experiencing a rare but serious result of overexertion: rhabdomyolysis.

“Rhabdomyolysis occurs when your body reaches its maximum threshold and the muscle essentially dies,” said Mercy hospitalist director Dr. Nitin Sawheny. “The muscle breaks down and releases a toxin that in extreme cases, like Jack’s, can overwhelm the body and destroy organs, like your kidneys.”

Rhabdomyolysis can occur as a result of overexertion, seizures, crush trauma and extreme dehydration, according to Dr. Sawheny. Staying hydrated during extreme workouts can reduce a person’s chances of rhabdomyolysis. Dr. Sawheny’s advice is to listen to your body.

“If your muscles are quivering and tired, take a break,” he said. “When you’re starting a new workout regimen, take your time and increase intensity each session. But, start slow and stay well hydrated.”

Damrill is on the road to recovery at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City and Dr. Sawheny says there’s no reason he shouldn’t be up and at it, in the gym, a few days after he gets out of the hospital. Damrill plans to continue training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon after he recovers.

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