Diagnostic biomarkers of muscle injury and exertional rhabdomyolysis

Giuseppe Lippi, Federico Schena, Ferruccio Ceriotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Early recognition of muscle injury, up to development of exertional rhabdomyolysis (ER), is essential for many clinical and practical reasons, such as planning the suitable period of recovery and deciding an appropriate time for return to exercise. Albeit magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) remains the reference technique for assessing muscle injuries, and ultrasonography (US) may be a complementary approach for easy, inexpensive and fast screening, the potential drawbacks of both techniques may be overcome by some laboratory tests, which may help guiding both diagnostic reasoning and clinical decision making. Current evidence attest that creatine kinase remains the most validated test across the clinical spectrum of muscles injuries, as its measurement may be helpful for screening subjects with suggestive signs and symptoms, its concentration substantially reflects the amount of injured muscle and its kinetics appears suitable, combined with clinics and results of imaging testing, for making decisions on return to exercise. Relatively low cost and widespread availability are additional advantages of this test. In athletes with ER, myoglobin assessment may provide adjunctive useful information, due to high predictive value for development of acute kidney injury. Regarding other historical biomarkers, namely aldolase and lactate dehydrogenase, the kinetics, correlation with injury severity, laboratory standardization and availability make their measurement unsuitable and redundant. Some innovative biomarkers have also been tested in recent years, including fatty acid-binding proteins and carbonic anhydrase III, myosin light chain 3 and muscle micro RNAs. However, their clinical effectiveness, standardization, availability in clinical laboratories and costs are still regarded as major drawbacks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-182
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • injury
  • muscle
  • physical activity:
  • rhabdomyolysis
  • sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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