Commentary: Post-rhabdo, not much change for Iowa football

BY IAN MARTIN | MARCH 24, 2011 7:20 AM

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Rhabdomylosis hasn’t really changed anything in Iowa City.

The 13 players admitted to the hospital after an intense Jan. 20 workout are all healthy and well, said head coach Kirk Ferentz, and no one was fired in the aftermath of fiasco.

Iowa head strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle still has his post, as does Kirk Ferentz and the rest of his staff.

The only massive change is now the number of Hawkeye fans — and college football fans nationally — who know what rhabdomyolysis is. The condition in which muscle fiber can get into the blood stream and subsequently the kidneys was the talk of football for a few days, but now Iowa has officially wrapped up talking about the matter after the university-appointed committee that investigated the incident presented its findings to the state Board of Regents.

Policy- and employee-wise, nothing massive is changing.

The committee’s largest finding was that the workout that caused rhabdo shouldn’t be done again. That’s a savvy find.

So no one was axed, and there was no penalty from the university or NCAA. It’s almost as if nothing happened.

Much of the criticism surrounding the rhabdo saga has come from the public-relations disaster that was the first press conference about the incident. On Jan. 26, the UI held a press conference despite both Ferentz and Athletics Director Gary Barta being absent, instead opting for UI spokesman Tom Moore and three others — including a doctor from UIHC and one of the affected player’s fathers.

Ferentz has since apologized for his absence, which was caused by a recruiting trip.

If anything has been learned, or if anything will change, it’s going to be the handling of any incidents as opposed to the prevention of incidents.

Now, it is understood that the head coach must be at any football-crisis press conference, even if it is just for show.

The amazing amount of scrutiny on the rhabdo case was likely caused by two factors: its timing and its unique nature.

First, another negative incident happening just a month after two of the team’s highest-profile players were arrested on drug charges didn’t help anyone’s opinion, even if there is absolutely no relation between rhabdomyolysis and marijuana.

And second, there is no major history of rhabdo in sports — especially a large group being affected at the same time. I guarantee 99 percent of people without a medical degree couldn’t even spell rhabdomyolysis before this incident, let alone explain what it does. I know I was blissfully unaware of it.

If this had been a case of dehydration at another Big Ten school, the attention paid would have been minimal.

Instead, there was an investigation to tell people that the workout that put people in the hospital probably shouldn’t be held anymore, and that’s it.

Now, because nothing has changed, hopefully, all the scrutiny about the incident won’t be voiced anymore, either.

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