Invisible enemies are lurking on the training field; they don’t wield weapons but pose a serious threat to a Marine’s health and mission readiness.

A recent report by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) sounds the alarm on the rise in preventable medical conditions – rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo) and hyponatremia – plaguing troops, particularly within the Marine Corps.

A Cause for Concern: Rising Rates of Rhabdo and Hyponatremia

Rhabdo, the breakdown of muscle tissue caused by intense exercise, heatstroke, or trauma, can lead to life-threatening complications like kidney failure and heart arrhythmia.

Hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance caused by excessive water consumption that disrupts the body’s sodium levels, can also have severe consequences, including seizures and coma.

The report paints a concerning picture, with cases of both conditions spiking in recent years.

Rhabdo reached an alarming high in 2023, and the Marine Corps emerged as the branch with the highest overall rates, followed by the Army.

“The Army and Marines consistently have the highest burden and rate of heat illness among the services,” said Lisa Polyak, an environmental engineer at Defense Health Agency Public Health, in a report published last March report.

This disparity could be attributed to the Corps’ notoriously demanding 3-mile physical fitness test and the hot climates where many Marines train and deploy.