Exertional Rhabdomyolysis during a 246-km continuous running race

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jun;38(6):1054-7. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000222831.35897.5f.


Background: To evaluate the effect of continuous, moderate-intensity ultra-endurance running exercise on skeletal muscle and hepatic damage, as indicated by serum enzyme activity measured immediately following the race.

Methods: Thirty-nine runners of the Spartathlon race (a 246-km continuous race from Athens to Sparta, Greece) who managed to complete the race within the 36-h limit participated in this study. Mean finishing time of the study participants was 33.3+/-0.5 h and their average age, height, and body mass were 41+/-1 yr, 174+/-1 cm, and 67.5+/-1.1 kg, respectively. Blood samples, taken a day before and immediately after completion of the race, were assayed for the following variables: creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and gamma-glutamyltransferase (gamma-GT).

Results: A dramatic increase in most of muscle and liver damage indicators was observed. The mean values for CK, LDH, AST, and ALT after the race were 43,763+/-6,764, 2,300+/-285, 1,182+/-165, and 264+/-37 IU.L, respectively. These values were 29,384+/-4,327, 585+/-89, 5,615+/-902, and 1,606+/-331% higher than the corresponding values before the race (P<0.001) for CK, LDH, AST, and ALT, respectively. However, there was not a significant increase in gamma-GT levels.

Conclusion: Muscle and liver damage indicators were elevated at the highest level ever reported as a result of prolonged exercise, although no severe symptoms that required hospitalization were observed in any of the participants. The data suggest that even moderate-intensity exercise of prolonged duration can induce asymptomatic exertional rhabdomyolysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Creatine Kinase / analysis
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Erythrocyte Indices
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / blood
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Liver / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Rhabdomyolysis / blood
  • Rhabdomyolysis / etiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / blood


  • Hemoglobins
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Creatine Kinase