Usually at this point in the offseason, pro tennis player Melanie Oudin is putting in at least six hours a day of court time and fitness work.
Right now, as the 2009 U.S. Open quarterfinalist recovers from a muscle-damaging condition she says caused her arms to swell "like balloons," Oudin is under doctor's orders to limit herself to one hour a day of running. Nothing more: no racket-swinging, and definitely no weightlifting.
The 22-year-old American is not sure when she will be back playing tennis and might not be on tour by next month's Australian Open. She knows she will need to skip the tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, that begins Dec. 30.
"My arms are so weak. I can barely carry anything. I have no strength at all," Oudin said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "My muscles are completely ruptured in both arms. The good thing, though, is no other part of my body is affected."
She said she was diagnosed two weeks ago with rhabdomyolysis (rab-doe-my-OL-uh-sis), which may be caused by intense exertion and can lead to kidney damage. Oudin wants other athletes to know about what happened to her so "they'll be really careful about overtraining."
Oudin, who is from Marietta, Ga., and now is based in Boca Raton, Fla., traces the problem to a particularly vigorous weights session 2 1/2 weeks ago.
"We did a pretty hard lifting session, upper body for about an hour and a half. ... It was too much for me, too soon, because I hadn't done lifting in too long. I also guess I was a little dehydrated - that's what the doctors think. And so my muscles were starting to break down," Oudin said.
Over the next couple of days, she added, her arms "were super-swollen; they looked like balloons," and she couldn't straighten them.
"They were locked," Oudin said. "I had never felt that kind of pain before."
Her initial moment in the spotlight came in 2009, at age 17, when she followed up a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon with a stirring, attention-grabbing series of upsets at the U.S. Open, including against Maria Sharapova.
These days, Oudin is simply looking forward to getting on a court again.
"It's going to take time. No one really knows exactly how long," Oudin said. "But I'm definitely not going to take a chance of getting this again. If I try to do too much, I could get it again; the recovery time could be twice as long.
"Hopefully," she continued, "I'll come back stronger than before."
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