Oregon high school football players make team visit to hospital — for treatment
When will coaches ever learn? The lesson of the Junction Boys — Bear Bryant’s infamous desert preseason camp for his 1954 Texas A&M Aggies –is that putting your football players through intense practices in extreme heat with no access to water is a great way to decimate your team. Of course, that Bryant’s winless Aggies of 1954 went undefeated the next year must be why so many coaches persist of thinking about the Junction Boys as an effective exercise in team-building and following your coach, like how locking Patty Hearst in a closet was an effective exercise in team-building and following your Dear Leader.
If first-year McMinnville, Ore., High School football coach Jeff Kearin wanted to follow an example of Bryant’s, he should have just gotten fitted for a houndstooth hat. Instead, Kearin put his charges through an indoor version of the Junction Boys, an indoor “immersion” cap that unified the team — at the local hospital.
From OregonLive.com (as of 10:30 p.m. local time Aug. 22):
Doctors say a unique combination of elements — high heat, dehydration and heavy exercise — is to blame for sending more than a dozen McMinnville High School football players to the hospital this week.
Dr. Craig Winkler, who treated seven of the affected players, said a workout at a preseason camp run by first-year coach Jeff Kearin on Aug. 15 probably triggered the uncommon soft-tissue condition, known as rhabdomyolysis, or its more serious counterpart, “compartment syndrome.” … [Left untreated, it can be fatal.]
Winkler said 14 players were admitted throughout the week, although about 30 players who attended the camp were referred to the hospital to be checked out.
Three players required emergency surgery, one on both arms. …
Players, with bedding in tow, arrived at the “immersion camp” Aug. 15 at the high school and were soon run through a series of push-ups and “chair dips,” which work out the triceps. … [A parent of a sick player] said players have told him they were not allowed to drink water until they completed the exercises.
Winkler, who doubles as the football team’s physician, also questioned the wisdom of the workouts.
Players told him “they were working out for more than 20 minutes in an enclosed room in 115-degree heat,” Winkler said. “That seems pretty intense to me. From a medical point of view, I would not allow anyone to exercise at temperatures over 100.”
Apparently players were afraid to speak up because they were all too busy trying to impress the new coach, who said the 11 hardest-working players would get to play, according to the OregonLive.com account. Plus, what high school player has ever stood up to a football coach? And lived? Of course, if Kearin deemed players were slacking off, they would have to do the drill again.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a hard workout, or even making players do a drill again if they aren’t working hard enough. But if it’s in the 90s outside, and you’re in an un-air conditioned room, you might want to make a few allowances for safety. This highlights how in almost all cases at the high school level at below, there is no medical professional or anyone else to tell a coach to back off. Maybe there is a trainer who works for the coach. So it’s upon coaches to make the smart decision — one that isn’t always made. (Perhaps it would help if coaches were instructed, or had access, to call a physician or someone who could make a medical judgment on what they could do in extreme conditions.)
Kearin is quoted at OregonLive.com that he realizes his “silence is deafening,” but that the school won’t let him talk. He shouldn’t worry. Kearin will be able to talk all he wants, under his counsel’s watch, in the at least 30 lawsuits (30 being the number of players that had to make a trip to the hospital) that will be coming against the school.
However, Kearin might have one saving grace that could keep him out of criminal court and make him the next Jason Stinson. From OregonLive.com:
But Winkler said he is also waiting for blood tests looking for the presence of creatine, a legal, loosely regulated and widely available bodybuilding supplement present in a number of weight-gain products that has been linked to an increased risk of sports-related injury.
“We’re looking to see if there’s some inciting event or some toxins that led to this massive injury,” Winkler said.
Creatine was a factor in the case against Stinson, a Louisville high school football coach acquitted last year on charges relating to the death of one of his players, who overheated during a practice on a 90-degree day. There was evidence the deceased player had used creatine, a muscle-building supplement that can accelerate dehydration. (The player also had taken ADHD medication, which has a similar effect on dehydration.)
If Kearin stuck his players in a hot, hot room and didn’t let them have water, he was stone wrong. But if any of those players were taking supplements that turned being overheated into a near-fatal illness — well, Kearin is still wrong, but it’s possible he could be off the hook legally. Hey, if Kearin is going to follow Bryant’s path, getting away with running his players into the ground early in his career would lead to a lot of success later.
LATE ADD: In another story, Dr. Winkler says that the affected players — three of whom did have compartment syndrome (out of the 19 players out of the 30 checked that ended up having injuries) — will not be tested for steroids because, according to The Associated Press, it’s believed “it would be unlikely for that many students to have access, and ‘creatine makes way more sense.'”
Are you kidding me? If one player can have a steroid connection, that person would be MORE than happy to sell to multiple players on one team. This is not a comment on whether the players were taking steroids or anything else. Again, even if they were roided to the gills (because they were so roided they developed gills), that coach should not have had them in a hotbox for drills. But the school is fooling itself if it thinks it’s not possible for the whole damn team to be juicing.
Heck, if I were the school, and I could get away with it (but maybe I couldn’t), I would insist on toxicology tests for every chemical known and unknown to man as a way to limit my liability when the lawsuits come. After all, if it turned out that the injured players were using something (again, I have no evidence they did, nor do I mean to say they did — I’m thinking like a desperate-to-save-my-ass superintendent), and the players who did not succumb to the heat were not, I would want that as Exhibit A in my defense.