John Harrell has resigned as Rockwall-Heath’s football coach, Rockwall ISD announced Wednesday night, just under two months after many players were hospitalized following an intense workout that required athletes to do nearly 400 push-ups.
Harrell had been on administrative leave while an investigation was conducted by a third-party independent investigator following a Jan. 6 workout that parents said hospitalized at least 15 to 18 players, possibly more. The story made national headlines.
A letter from Rockwall ISD athletic director Russ Reeves to Heath parents that was sent Wednesday and was obtained by The Dallas Morning News said that the investigators found sufficient evidence existed to support a finding that the offseason workout plan was implemented in a way that negatively affected the physical health of some student football athletes at Rockwall-Heath High School in violation of Rockwall ISD board policy.
The letter said that multiple student-athletes were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis. That is a stress-induced muscle disorder that can damage cells and cause kidney damage and even failure in severe cases, and it precipitates acute kidney injury in 13-67% of affected individuals and accounts for 5-10% of all cases of acute kidney failure in the United States, according to the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association.
Dr. Osehotue Okojie, a family medical physician, said her son was hospitalized for a week after showing signs of rhabdomyolysis. Okojie said some players went to the ICU and that some were on dialysis.
Parents and players said there were not athletic trainers present at the Jan. 6 workout. Parents and players said the athletes did at least 375 to 400 push-ups, possibly more. Accounts of how long the athletes had to do those push-ups has varied, with some saying as short as 30 minutes and others saying 45 minutes to an hour. Multiple players and parents have said there was no water or water breaks available during the workout.
Reeves’ letter said that the school district plans to implement the following recommendations for all athletic programs as a result of the report by the third party to avoid similar recurrences. The Dallas Morning News had previously reported that Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C. was the third party being used.
1. Consult with, and/or hire, a full-time certified strength and conditioning specialist to work with its coaches on designing and reviewing their workouts and athletic plans.
2. Review, and to the extent necessary, adopt and implement procedures by which there is appropriate oversight by the athletic director for offseason workouts.
3. Review, and to the extent necessary, adopt procedures by which offseason workout plans are reviewed by the athletic trainers for input and comments.
4. Provide training for coaches, athletic administrators, athletic trainers, parents and students on the dangers of rhabdomyolysis and red flags for workouts that could result in rhabdomyolysis.
The letter said that Rockwall ISD will begin facilitating the hiring of a new head football coach and campus athletic coordinator. Secondary coach Alex Contreras is serving as the interim head coach.
“Filling this position is a top priority for our athletic program and the district,” the letter said. “In that effort, parents, teachers and staff will have an opportunity to provide input about the strengths and qualities of the future head football coach.”
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