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Did other factors affect stricken Hawkeyes?

[ 20 ] January 27, 2011 |

twitosky@dmreg.com and brmiller@dmreg.com

Details about what sent 13 University of Iowa football players to the hospital raise questions about player activities outside strenuous weekend workouts, a medical expert and major-college strength and conditioning coach said Thursday.

Players were admitted Monday after some reported brown and discolored urine, and university officials said the men remain hospitalized while being treated for rhabdomyolysis.

Dr. John Graves, a staff physician in the division of hypertension and internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said doctors at University of Iowa Hospitals should center substantial attention on nontraining factors. At the University of Tulsa, assistant strength and conditioning coach Paul Arndorfer — who attended Iowa and knows Hawkeyes strength coach Chris Doyle personally — raised similar issues.

Graves was asked whether the inability to find a common thread among the cases while hospitalized is unusual.

“Yes. That says that the kids aren’t telling you what happened on the weekend,” he said. “That says there is more to the story than the workouts. There is more going on that they aren’t telling us about … something else that sensitized them, perhaps, to the workout on Monday, and that is what tripped them into rhabdomyolysis.”


Meanwhile, a joint news release Thursday from university President Sally Mason and the Iowa Board of Regents said an investigation into events that led to the athletes’ hospital treatment would be conducted over the next 90 days.

Gov. Terry Branstad said officials should ensure that a complete explanation of what happened to the football players, who have yet to be identified by the university, is shared with the public.

Branstad told reporters and editors of The Des Moines Register on Thursday that he had not talked with Mason or regents leaders about the situation, but that university officials are “concerned about the health and well-being of all students and certainly student athletes.”


Iowa players described grueling workouts on Jan. 20 that included 100 weight-lifting squat repetitions, while timed.

Some Hawkeyes outlined difficulties standing or walking, and former Des Moines Lincoln star Jordan Bernstine characterized it on the social media site Facebook as the hardest workout of his life.

Arndorfer, however, said a workout like that sounds consistent with Iowa’s past programs — and workouts he has been involved in himself.

“I have had guys do that workout and I have done that workout myself, and it’s (tough), but there’s got to be some underlying reason” for the hospitalization, Arndorfer said. Iowa players “do that workout every year at this time and have not had any problems in the past.”

“I would have a couple of questions for the players,” he said. “One is: What were they doing Sunday or over the weekend? … Another is: Were any of them taking a supplement not given to them by the university?”

Doctors outlined other possible nontraining factors that could contribute to rhabdomyolysis — a condition that causes muscle fiber to break down and has possible effects that include kidney damage.

Dr. John Stokes of UofI Hospitals said at a news conference Wednesday that he had not seen that many cases at once in his more than three decades of work, but no reason was pinpointed to link the cases.

Iowa’s president outlined the goals of the investigation in Thursday’s news release.

“The primary aim of this analysis will be to identify, to the extent possible, the root causes of this incident in order to create and implement effective preventative measures to ensure this does not happen in the future,” Mason said.

The Register was unable to contact parents or relatives of the players to discuss possible activities outside workouts.

Derek Pagel, a former Iowa player under coach Kirk Ferentz and Doyle, was drafted by the National Football League’s New York Jets in 2003.

“That’s out of the ordinary, obviously,” Pagel, a former Hawkeye defensive back, said of doing 100 squat repetitions. “But we did similar things to that. The reps might not have been exactly 100, but it was a lot.

“There’s a method to what they do to make sure players are progressing. There are things they do to shock the body and shock the muscles, but it’s nothing to do with punishment — I know that. It’s not like, ‘Hey, we need more wins next year — let’s squat 100 times.’

“Coach Doyle knows what he’s doing, and he’s strategic. I know that without him, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the NFL.”


Graves, who has specialized in treating forms of kidney disease and damage for nearly 30 years, said a range of factors including dehydration, illness or even playing pickup basketball could contribute to rhabdomyolysis.

“I’d want to question them intensely on what they were doing on the weekend and were they running on their own, were they playing pickup basketball, were they taking supplements,” he said. “I suspect there is more to this story.”

Ferentz, Doyle and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta have not returned calls seeking comment.


Arndorfer, of Tulsa, said Doyle is very strict on do-it-right guidelines — and communicating with players.

“I know Doyle for a fact — he has it printed in manuals, et cetera — that if you want to take supplements, for example, you take only what we provide you at the University of Iowa.

“If they’re taking it, they’re doing it without his knowledge — and, actually, against their rules.”

Branstad, a walk-on baseball player at Iowa in early 1970s, said the number of athletes affected concerned him.

“This happened to 13 athletes, and that is a large number of people. It wasn’t just one person,” Branstad said.


University doctors to lead inquiry

University of Iowa physicians will lead the inquiry into what led to the hospitalization of 13 members of the football team, the president of the Iowa Board of Regents said Thursday.

David Miles told The Des Moines Register he has confidence that the medical staff will provide a complete and independent assessment.

Miles said he thought the doctors at University of Iowa Hospitals “take their medical oaths very seriously, and they weren’t involved in any of the training. I have no reason to think they won’t be able to offer an independent opinion as to what happened.”

Miles said that he was informed of the problems Tuesday after a number of the players had been sent to the hospital following weekend workouts.

“Like everyone else, I was quite concerned about the number of players involved,” Miles said.

— Tom Witosky


Fourth hospitalized player confirmed

The family of junior defensive back Willie Lowe told The Des Moines Register he is one of 13 University of Iowa football players still hospitalized following off-season workouts last weekend.

Lowe recorded eight tackles in eight games last season for the Insight Bowl-winning Hawkeyes.

The Register and the Iowa City Press-Citizen previously reported that Shane DiBona, Jim Poggi and Jordan Bernstine also are hospitalized. The university has declined to identify players being treated, citing student-privacy laws.

— Bryce Miller

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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