A Cluster of Exertional Rhabdomyolysis Cases in a ROTC Program Engaged in an Extreme Exercise Program

Mil Med. 2018 Mar 1;183(suppl_1):516-521. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usx159.


Exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER) is on the rise among service members and high school and college athletes. Reported risk factors for ER include fitness level, sudden increase in exercise intensity and duration, and eccentric predominant exercise. This study examined an ER cluster among Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets who participated in a mandatory, timed, extreme conditioning program (ECP) workout. Forty-four cadets participated in this ECP; 11 were subsequently hospitalized with ER. Thirty-five cadets, including all who developed ER, completed a questionnaire to assess ECP times, prior fitness scores, and other ER risk factors. Cadets completed the ECP workout as individuals or in teams. Nine of 25 (36%) individual and two of 10 (20%) team participants were hospitalized with ER. Among the cadets, no associations were noted between hospitalization for ER and finish time, previous fitness scores, or dietary supplement use. The relative risk of developing ER was significantly increased in those who consumed alcohol in the week preceding the ECP (RR = 4.20; 95% CI 1.95, 9.03). In this cohort of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, an ECP resulted in a high rate of hospitalization for ER. Contrary to reported ER risk factors, higher baseline fitness was not protective. Rather, cadet knowledge that ECP performance was strongly linked to final cadet ranking greatly influenced intensity of effort.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Rhabdomyolysis / epidemiology
  • Rhabdomyolysis / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires