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Detailed findings of U of Iowa rhabdo report

[ 0 ] March 22, 2011 |

Here is what the Board of Regents will see today when University of Iowa president Sally Mason presents findings of Iowa’s investigation into what caused 13 Hawkeye football players to be hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis following a strenuous January workout.

The investigation was conducted by professor David R. Drake, Dr. Loreen Herwaldt, professor William Hines, professor Kevin C. Kregel and university assistant vice president Deborah Thoman.

Committee conclusions

• The committee is as certain as possible that the strenuous squat-lifting workout the players did on Jan. 20 caused rhabdomyolysis in the 13 who were hospitalized, as well as serious muscle injuries to players who did not develop advanced rhabdomyolysis symptoms.

• The 13 players were in no way responsible for their own injuries. Rhabdomyolysis was not associated with use of prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, supplements or energy drinks.

• Heavy workouts of the type done on Jan. 20 had been conducted successfully in June 2004 and December 2007 and were not known to cause rhabdomyolysis. Therefore, the football coaches, strength coaches or athletic trainers did not have reason to suspect that a similar workout in 2011 would cause rhabdomyolysis in 13 players. However, timing of the 2011 workout was different than in 2004 and 2007. The 2004 workout occurred in June, and the 2007 workout was in December after a one-week break. The 2011 workout followed a three-week break.

• There was no evidence to support media and public claims that the workouts were intended to “punish” the football team or that the players were threatened with harsh treatment if they did not excel in the workouts. At a Jan. 18 meeting, the strength coach did make comments to the effect that last season’s close losses should concern everyone in the football program, including players … and that the workouts would determine “who wants to be here.”

Committee recommendations

• The football program should reaffirm its decision to abandon the intense, high-volume squat-lifting workout conducted on Jan. 20, 2011.

• The football program should develop effective mechanisms for determining when players are experiencing unexpected complications that can result from a specific type of workout.

• Whenever a few members of a team become injured or ill after a strenuous workout, all members of the team should be tested to make sure they are not suffering from the same conditions.

Highlights from a timeline compiled by the committee

Dec. 29: Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

Dec. 30: Team returned to Iowa City.

Dec. 31-Jan. 18: Winter break. Players given individualized workout cards to guide conditioning during the break.

Jan. 18: Strength and conditioning coaches met with players after classes resumed. Strength coaches stressed the importance of upcoming workouts.

Jan. 19: Players participated in balance and coordination drills.

Jan. 20: Squat-lifting workouts that eventually contributed to rhabdomyolysis. Some players were so sore after the intense workout that they had trouble getting from the weight room to the “bubble” practice facility. One player in the 6 a.m. workout noted he had discolored urine, but did not report it to trainers.

Jan. 21: Upper-body workouts. Many players noted severe leg pain and difficulty climbing stairs, putting on shoes and socks and other basic activities. Five of the affected players noted their urine was discolored, but did not report it to trainers.

Jan. 22: No workouts. Three more players noted dark urine, but none reported this observation to the staff of the football program.

Jan. 23: No workouts. Numerous players still had leg pain and swelling. One more player noted discolored urine.

Jan. 24: A trainer discovered an unnamed player to have high blood pressure. A primary care physician diagnosed the player to have rhabdomyolysis. Additional players were diagnosed with the same illness.

Jan. 25: A total of 13 players now were receiving hospital treatment for rhabdomyolysis.

Jan. 25-30: Players were gradually released from the hospital as their symptoms disappeared.

Jan. 31: The last player was released by the hospital.

The committee reported the following findings

• Parents criticized the football program for a lack of communication, citing learning about the hospitalizations from the media and rare contact with coaches. (NOTE: Head coach Kirk Ferentz was out of town on a recruiting trip during the outbreak.) They interpreted the fact that the head coach did not return immediately to campus as a lack of concern on his part for the affected players.

• Some parents expressed anger and distrust as a result of this event and suggested that some of the coaches should have been suspended until the investigation was complete.

• Interviews with the strength and conditioning coaches revealed that their intent for the workout was to put the team through a tough challenge that would strengthen their confidence.

• The strength and conditioning coaches were aware of heat injury and dehydration, but they did not know about rhabdomyolysis until the cluster (of 13 players) occurred.

• Communication between the strength coaches, trainers, team physicians and players must improve. The coaches must observe the players and talk with the players during and after strenuous workouts and practices specifically to determine if players have unexpected difficulty with the workout or practice or unusual soreness or pain afterwards.

— Randy Peterson


Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Randy Peterson: Randy Peterson covers college football, college basketball and the Iowa Cubs for the Des Moines Register. Randy can be reached at randypeterson@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RandyPete View author profile.

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