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12 football players hospitalized; symptoms likely related to workouts

[ 14 ] January 25, 2011 |

By TOM WITOSKYand BRYCE MILLER

twitosky@dmreg.com

Twelve members of the Iowa football team remained hospitalized early Tuesday night for undisclosed reasons, because of symptoms university officials indicated were “likely related” to offseason workouts.

University officials indicated in a news release that two unnamed university physicians said players were out of any potential health danger.

“The student-athletes were admitted throughout the course of Monday evening,” one unnamed staff physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said in the statement. “All of the individuals are responding well to treatment. All are in safe and stable condition.

“At this time we are not sure when any of the individuals will be discharged.”

Alan DiBona, the father of freshman linebacker Shane DiBona of Duxbury, Mass., confirmed to The Des Moines Register that his son had been hospitalized.

Last Thursday, prior to Monday’s events, Shane DiBona talked about a staggering workout on Facebook: “I had to squat 240 pounds 100 times and it was timed. I can’t walk and I fell down the stairs … lifes (sic) great.”

Alan DiBona said Shane was out of any immediate danger, however.

“We’ve talked to him and he’s doing great,” Alan DiBona said.

DiBona politely declined to answer additional questions about his son because the two had not had an opportunity to discuss the situation in greater detail.

Freshman tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz responded to the Register via text message about player symptoms.

“I guess there (sic) urine was brown and they were all dizzy,” the text read.

Junior defensive back Jordan Bernstine, a former Des Moines Lincoln star, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen he also was treated at the hospital, but is doing fine.

Workout-related concerns

NCAA rules allowed off-season conditioning workouts to begin this month, according to Fred Mims, Iowa’s associate athletic director for student services and compliance. Mims said athletes can participate in supervised, two-hour workouts daily up to eight hours per week.

Chris Doyle, Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach, could not be reached for comment.

Gary Barta, Iowa athletic director, said football coach Kirk Ferentz remained out of town on a recruiting trip, but was aware that players had been hospitalized.

“He is aware of the situation and is being kept abreast of the progress being made,” Barta said in a statement. “Our No. 1 concern is the safety of our student-athletes, so we are pleased with the positive feedback.

“Our next step is to find out what happened so we can avoid this happening in the future.”

Mims said players contacted his office with questions about potential missed class time and indicated it is his office’s understanding that treatment was needed “from their training, their weightlifting.”

DiBona, who outlined a difficult weight-related workout on his Facebook page, and freshman linebacker Jim Poggi had status updates about the situation on their personal pages. Poggi’s update was taken down later Tuesday.

The Facebook page for Bernstine last Thursday indicated: “Hands Down the hardest workout I’ve ever had in my life! I can’t move!”

Iowa offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde told the Associated Press that Iowa coaches are concerned about the safety and well-being of players.

“They are nothing if not concerned for the health of the players,” Vandervelde said. “That’s always the first priority, health and development. I mean workouts are never used to punish. It’s always about improvement, and workouts are always well within the capabilities of the athletes asked to perform them.”

Tom Moore, a university spokesman, said university officials were still attempting to ascertain the exact cause of the problem.

“We don’t have any additional information confirmed yet,” Moore said. “The cause is not completely clear, but the faculty and staff are doing an excellent job taking care of these student-athletes. We are still working on why this happened.”

Searching for answers

At 3:31 p.m. Tuesday, the Iowa sports information department put out a statement confirming a dozen players had been hospitalized Monday and they were “responding well to treatment” on Tuesday.

The statement raised significant questions, however, about the reason for treating the players — and failed to provide any other details. The five-paragraph statement included a comment from Barta.

The statement indicated Iowa would not comment further “at this time.”

Moore, reached later by the Register, said “there is no indication that a wider health threat to the public at large exists.”

At 6:47 p.m., Iowa’s sports information department released another statement with the subject line “UI Clarification” that stated: “Following is clarification to earlier UI athletic department release regarding UI football student-athletes:

“The Hawkeye football players admitted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics were all participating in NCAA allowable winter workouts. The symptoms, for which the student-athletes are being treated, are likely related to those workouts.”

Medical concerns

The text from Fiedorowicz and a short-hand message on Poggi’s Facebook page — “in the hospital … turns out its bad news bears wen ur wizz is brown” — raised medical questions and concerns.

One possible explanation for the problem — given the acknowledgement that the problems related to offseason conditioning — is that the players could have developed myoglobinuria, a condition caused by rhabdomyolisis or muscle breakdown resulting from causes that include excessive, strenuous workouts.

Myoglobinuria, according to eMedicine.com, occurs when muscles begin to break down.

Myoglobin seeps into the urine.

Physicians are trained to respond to the condition by initiating aggressive hydration to prevent acute kidney injury.

The Register’s Andrew Logue and Iowa City Press-Citizen’s Andy Hamilton contributed to this article.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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