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A Workout Breakdown

Co Authors:

Arne K. Christensen
Department of Biology
Westfield State University

Joan-Beth Gow
School of Professional Studies
Anna Maria College


This directed case study focuses on exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis (exRML).  Students are guided though skeletal muscle cell membrane transport and calcium homeostasis.  They are then asked to predict how depletion of ATP at the skeletal muscle cell level could affect cellular membrane transport, skeletal muscle tissue integrity, blood composition, and kidney organ function. This cause-and-effect scenario, which incorporates human physiology at all levels from ion to organ, is presented in the context of the protagonist, "Rachel," who pushes her exercise regime too far and ends up in the hospital with exRML. Students are provided with a variety of clinical data (vital signs, blood values, and plotted data) and are then invited to apply what they have learned to determine how to tailor Rachel's treatment plan. This case was written for a general biology or human physiology course and is designed to be used within one 50-minute block.

  • Summarize normal muscle physiology.
  • Analyze the rhabdomyolysis disease process at a cellular level.
  • Interpret numerical values that indicate pathological conditions in these systems.
  • Describe the symptoms and treatment of rhabdomyolysis.
  • Assess risk factors for rhabdomyolysis and relate these to their own lives.
Keywords: Muscle; kidney; membrane transport; ATP; rhabdomyolysis; RML; exRML; CrossFit; muscle pain; weakness; discolored urine; myoglobin
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Directed, Discussion
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Cell Biology   Medicine (General)   Physiology   Sports Science   Nursing   Science (General)  
Date Posted: 9/16/2019
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Answer Key

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Supplemental Materials

The PowerPoint presentation below includes a slide that can be used to discuss Ca2+ transport in a resting skeletal muscle cell.

  rhabdomyolysis.pptx (~544 KB)

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