What Caused Prep Football Team's Injury Epidemic?

At least 24 football players from McMinnville (Ore.) High School have been treated for what some medical experts are calling an extreme version of a muscle syndrome caused by intense exercise. About half of the student-athletes were admitted to a local hospital, and at least three needed surgery; one player required operations on both arms to reduce painful pressure.

The New York Times reports that the syndrome, known as rhabdomyolysis, often occurs when athletes who have not been training have a sudden increase in the intensity of their workouts - such as a return to practice after a summer break. Rupert P. Galvez, a sports medicine doctor in Denver who wrote a 2008 article about the syndrome, documented a case of rhabdomyolysis that year involving seven NCAA Division I swimmers who were put through an intense upper-body workout. And in 2005, according to The Times, a British medical journal reported on 119 high school students in Taiwan who developed the syndrome after their physical-education teacher required them to complete 120 push-ups in five minutes.

Associated Press reports indicate that all or some of the players had elevated levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, or CK, which is released by muscles when they're injured, according to Craig Winkler of the Willamette Valley Medical Center in McMinnville, about 35 miles southwest of Portland. High CK levels can result from vigorous exercise or the use of certain medications or food supplements, and they can lead to kidney failure if not properly treated.

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