In the profession of wildland firefighting, there has been a rise in the occurrence and awareness of exertional rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo), a serious medical condition. Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fibers in the human body. In wildland firefighters, we typically see cases of rhabdo during initial crew training periods. Below are some key points to remember, topics to discuss with your crew, and links to educational materials on rhabdo.
Exercise, particularly when strenuous and unaccustomed, is a common factor in wildland firefighter rhabdo cases.
Each case of rhabdo is unique in its causes, signs and symptoms, health consequences, and recovery.
The prognosis depends on the extent and severity of rhabdomyolysis, as well as response time – early and prompt medical intervention is crucial.
Has your crew been training in the offseason under conditions that prepare them for how the crew will be training/performing once they come on? An individual may be a great runner and physically fit, but if he or she has not been carrying weight during training, the individual will be unaccustomed to this exercise.
Have you talked to your crew about rhabdo? Do they feel comfortable telling you they have a problem?
Please share your Rhabdo stories and lessons with us.