- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AMES, IOWA (AP) - A University of Iowa investigative committee said Wednesday the school should scrap an intense workout that left 13 football players hospitalized, conceding that whatever triggered their injuries remains a mystery.

The five-member panel’s report clears the players, trainers and coaches of any wrongdoing, saying similar workouts have been done in the past without any injuries. The January workout, however, led to the 13 football players being diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which breaks down muscle cells and discolors urine. All the players were treated and none show any lasting effects.

“We’re not able to tell you exactly why it happened,” said committee member William Hines, a law professor and dean emeritus at the university’s College of Law. “We can speculate … but that’s a mystery that will have to remain unsolved.”

University President Sally Mason appointed the committee, which released its findings to the Board of Regents on Wednesday.

The report lists 10 recommendations, including abandoning the strenuous workout, which includes back squats with heavy weights. It also calls for everyone associated with the football program to be educated about rhabdomyolysis.

When members of a team become ill or injured after a strenuous workout, all others on the team should be tested to make sure they’re not suffering from a condition, according to the report.

Another recommendation suggests the university address long-term health needs of athletes affected by the Jan. 20 incident, including the possible need for psychological counseling. The report said communication with players, their parents and guardians and the public “were not handled well” in that incident.

Committee members said their investigation found that incidents of rhabomyolysis among student athletes happen more than people realize, but are often unreported.

“That leads to low incidence level of how many people exhibit rhabdo,” said committee member Kevin Kregel, a health and human physiology professor at the university.

Kregel said the timing of the workout, which followed a three-week layoff after the Hawkeyes’ Insight Bowl win over Missouri in December, may have been a factor. But he said the team wouldn’t have expected any problems since similar workouts in June 2004 and December 2007 went smoothly.

“The players were completely blameless,” he said. “They did the squats as instructed. They exhibited no risky behavior. These athletes did not ingest any legal or illegal substances that would have contributed to this outbreak.”

He said the coaches and trainers also “did nothing knowingly wrong.”

Head football coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday that he had no explanation as to why players who did the January workout were injured when no problems were experienced by athletes in past years.

“It’d be nice to know why this time and not the other three times,” Ferentz said, referring to the 2004 and 2007 workouts and one in 2000 that the committee report does not mention. “I was glad the committee was clear in saying that the players were not at fault and the staff was not at fault.

“We will not do that drill again. That’s one thing we have learned for sure.”

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