Jan 29, 2015
Overworked at Iowa?

By R.J. Anderson

When 13 University of Iowa football players were hospitalized with exertional rhabdomyolysis last week, it triggered a concerned buzz among strength coaches and athletic trainers across the country. With the athletes in stable condition and responding well to treatment, the Iowa Board of Regents has launched an investigation into the incident. We examine some of the reports out of Des Moines, and the questions that remain.
Calling the incident a “cause for great concern” in a joint statement, Regent President David Miles and University of Iowa President Sally Mason agreed on the use of independent medical experts and called for a 90-day timeline for “completion of a root-cause analysis.” (Though it’s possible that findings could be delivered before the 90-day timeline is completed.)

The incident started gaining national attention after 12 football players were admitted to a local hospital last Monday night, apparently suffering from exertional rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving the release of muscle fiber into the bloodstream. Tuesday evening, a 13th student-athlete experiencing the same symptoms was admitted.

The condition, which can cause kidney damage and even failure in severe cases, can be triggered by physical exertion. Use of banned substances was ruled out after each of the 13 players tested negative, a source told Sporting News last Thursday.

Be sure to check out the T&C Dec. 2010 feature story, “Too Much Too Soon,” by Dr. Stan Reents for more information on the dangers and symptoms of exertional rhabdomyolysis.

The hospitalizations came less than a week after Iowa began NCAA-sanctioned off-season workouts on Jan. 20–the first team activity since December’s Insight Bowl. According to the Daily Iowan, last weekend, players complained of excruciating muscle soreness that continued through Monday’s workout. Evidence of brown urine was another symptom that prompted Iowa athletic trainers to refer players to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa players described grueling workouts that included 100 weighted squat repetitions, while timed. Several players reported difficulties standing or walking after the workout, with one posting on his Facebook page that it was the hardest workout of his life.

However, Paul Arndorfer, CSCS, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Tulsa who attended Iowa and knows Iowa Head Strength Coach Chris Doyle, MS, CSCS, told the Des Moines Register that the workout sounds consistent with Iowa’s past training programs.

“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 added. “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?”

John Graves, MD, a staff physician in the division of hypertension and internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who has specialized in treating forms of kidney disease and damage for nearly 30 years, told the Register that doctors at University of Iowa Hospitals should center substantial attention on non-training factors.

“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.”

R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at Training & Conditioning.

How about the fact that the players were pushed too hard after a 3-4 week break????? The underlining story here is that no one at the University is taking any responsibility for what happened. It is no coincidence that 13 players were hospitalized.

– Lori Bristow

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