Home Blog Compartment Syndrome in High School Football Players??
Compartment Syndrome in High School Football Players??
Monday, 23 August 2010 00:00

Compartment syndrome is a relatively rare condition that occurs when pressure in and around a muscle (or group of muscles) becomes too high and essentially causes a “strangulation effect.” As the amount and duration of the pressure increases, the muscle begins to die, often leaving long-term and permanent neuromuscular deficits. The condition typically occurs after a high energy trauma (car accident), but can also occur with blunt trauma (for example when someone breaks a leg from hitting the bumper of a car).


It was reported yesterday on espn.com (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/highschool/news/story?id=5483568) that 19 players from an Oregon high school football team suffered muscle damage and had elevated levels of creatine kinase, which is released by muscles when they are injured. Three of the players had surgery after developing compartment syndrome, essentially without any reported specific trauma. The remaining players were treated with IV fluids to decrease chances of kidney failure, which can occur with high levels of creatine kinase.


Officially it is unknown what the cause is. However it is likely that creatine supplements could have contributed to the problem. Creatine is a supplement taken by many athletes to help increase muscle tone and shorten recovery time from muscle fatigue / failure. Unfortunately creatine causes water in the body to be absorbed preferentially by muscles, thereby inducing a relative dehydration state in the body. Additionally if someone exercises very hard in high temperatures, they are more likely to end up dehydrated.


If all these scenarios were in play for these high school players, then it is conceivable that exercising coupled with increased retention of water in muscle (due to creatine), could have caused a compartment syndrome like condition….very interesting. There is a reason supplements like creatine are not FDA approved. The desire to succeed in sports, including at the high school level, drives athletes to do “whatever it takes,” sometimes leading to unfortunate consequences.


Image courtesy of http://healthflair.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/creatinechart.png


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