The chair of the committee that investigated the condition that struck 13 University of Iowa football players says the case will change the way things are done in training rooms nationwide. U-I law professor Bill Hines, says though, there is not a clear cut answer for why the players came down with the condition Rhabdomyolysis. The condition caused the player’s muscle tissue to break down after a heavy offseason workout that involved lower body exercises.
The workout had been done before in 2000, 2004 and 2007 without problems. “We’re not able to tell you exactly why this happened, it’s very clear it happened, we can speculate that some convergence of two or three factors probably made this different than the other times, this virtually the same workout had been completed with not such injuries. But that is a mystery that is going to have to remain unsolved,” Hines said.
Physiology professor Kevin Kregel says the timing of the January squat workout could be one of the factors that caused the injuries. Kregel says the three-week layoff from the time the players left the Arizona bowl game and when the reported back to campus for the workout probably left their muscles “detrained,” and that made those muscles more susceptible to the injury when you do that many squats.
Kregel says the workout was a team-building exercise not intended to hurt the players and was set to have them do 50% of the maximum number of squats they had previously performed. But he says the layoff in training probably dropped down the maximum number of squats that should have been used.
So he says some of the player were likely doing more than 50% of their maximum and he says the high volume of squats is the type of workouts that can greatly challenge muscles. He says the various circumstances of the workout likely led to the higher number of injuries.
Kreger says the workout happened on a weekend and that led to less communication between the players immediately after the workout.
Kreger says the things they highlight for change include the need for some better communication between the players and the trainers. He says there was also some concern by the parents and the players over the rampant speculation about what had happened.
Kreger says there was speculation that the players took something legal or illegal that may’ve contributed to the problem, but he says they found no evidence of that. Hines says there are few publicized instances where there have been cases of this condition striking a large number of players, and this case will make an impact well outside Iowa City.
“This is clearly a wake up call not only for the strength program at Iowa, but the entire country,” Hines says. He says Kregal talked to the president of the strength coaches association and they had some 100 calls from other coaches wanting to know what happened at Iowa and how to prevent it.
Hines says there has been a climate where players did not want to report problems because of the nature of the sport and the competition, but he says that will change. He predicts that every “first rate” program in the country will start having follow through after heavy workouts to see what the results are.
Hines is the dean emeritus of the U-I Law School, and says he learned how big the spotlight is on the Hawkeye football program. Hines says he didn’t realize it until after he got involved, but says the “Iowa strength training program is legendary in American athletics, we are one of the premiere programs.” So he says when something like this happens at Iowa, it gets a lot of attention.
Hines and Kreger made their comments in a report today to the Board of Regents. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta says they have already made some of the changes suggested in the report, and will review it and see if they need to make additional changes.
You can see the entire report here: Report on Rhabdo incident PDF