Exertional rhabdomyolysis among active component members of the U.S. Armed Forces, 2019-2023

MSMR. 2024 Apr 20;31(4):9-14.


A largely preventable condition, exertional rhabdomyolysis persists as an occupational hazard of military training and operations, especially in high heat environments among individuals exerting themselves to their physical endurance limits. During the 5-year surveillance period of this study, unadjusted incidence rates of exertional rhabdomyolysis per 100,000 person-years among U.S. active component service members fluctuated, reaching a low of 38.0 cases in 2020 and peaking at 40.5 cases in 2023. The rate in 2020 constituted a decline of 3.8% from the rate in 2019 (39.5 cases). Beginning in 2020, incidence rates per 100,000 person-years gradually increased, by 1.8% in 2021 (38.7 cases), 5.3% in 2022 (40.0 cases), and 6.6% in 2023 (40.5 cases). Consistent with prior reports, subgroup-specific crude rates in 2023 were highest among men, those less than 20 years old, non-Hispanic Black service members, Marine Corps or Army members, and those in combat-specific and 'other' occupations. Recruits experienced the highest rates of exertional rhabdomyolysis during each year, with incidence rates 6 to 10 times greater than all other service members.

Keywords: United States; exertional rhabdomyolysis; heat illness; heat injury; military; operations; rhabdomyolysis; training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Military Personnel* / statistics & numerical data
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Physical Exertion* / physiology
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Rhabdomyolysis* / epidemiology
  • Rhabdomyolysis* / etiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult