MCMINNVILLE, Ore. - The superintendent of McMinnville Schools during a news conference Friday afternoon said that three more McMinnville students were admitted to the hospital on top of the seven already there.
One of the original seven has been released, Maryalice Russell said. The three admitted to Willamette Valley Medical Center on Friday will be given two liters of fluid and will be released after a short stay.
She said dozens of students had blood drawn for testing. In all, more than 30 students were tested within 24 hours.
Russell said the team will practice on Monday which is the start of the regular season.
She said it is not believed the situation is related to the type of workout the students were doing while they were attending a football camp earlier in the week. Additionally, she said she doesn't think the workouts were unreasonable.
“From all we’ve been able to obtain … we believe it was a strenuous workout but it wasn’t excessive,” she said.
Russell also said they are looking into whether the players took or ingested something. She said they are looking at all possibilities and the district is consulting with many doctors to figure out what happened.
On Friday evening Rosemary Davis, spokeswoman for Willamette Valley Medical Center, said that there isn’t any reason to believe the players took anything.
She said, however, they are being tested for Creatine, a supplement. But those samples have to be shipped to North Carolina. She said the lab at those facilities examines samples on Tuesdays and Thursdays so the results should be known by next Wednesday.
The football coach, Jeff Kearin, who is new this year, was not at the news conference and would not be immediately available to the media, Russell said. But she read a statement from him: "Our hearts and minds are focused solely on the health and well-being of our student athletes. Our coaching staff will continue to support our students and their families through these times and we look forward to preparing for our season with our full roster.”
Russell said because of this incident, there will be some minor changes in policy like having the coach call the parents if there’s an injury rather than the students. Additionally, even though water is available during practice and workouts, players will have more mandatory water breaks, she said.
The McMinnville High School football camp started Sunday as an overnight immersion camp. Students say it is something Kearin started when he came to McMinnville from a coaching job in California.
By Wednesday, several players noticed their triceps were swelling and seven were taken to the hospital. Three of them underwent surgery to have fluid reduced in their arms. On Friday, we learned 16 more players went to the hospital for testing. Of those, three were admitted.
According to Russell, doctors diagnosed the original seven players with compartment syndrome, which causes soreness and swelling and could be related to exercising in the heat, not drinking enough water or the kind of exercises the players were doing.
According to Russell, the exercises Kearin ordered the team to do he'd done successfully with other players at his last coaching job.
"The doctors we've spoken to also think this is very rare and unusual, and so I don't think anyone would have anticipated this outcome, including the coach," Russell said on Thursday.
Parents don’t blame coach
Parents and players said they don’t blame the coach. If anything, they said this experience is bringing them together.
They said they didn’t think twice about a week long overnight football camp with new coach Kearin.
McMinnville High School parent Dennis Nice said that by Tuesday his son started complaining about pain in his arms.
“He said, ‘I can’t move my arms,’ And basically what happens in the condition, the triceps freeze up, swell up and they can’t bend their arms. You can raise from the shoulder, but he couldn’t bend his arms.”
He said his son was diagnosed with “compartment syndrome.” His son was one of the three who had surgery to remove fluid and relieve the pressure in their triceps.
“What we were told it was the perfect storm,” said Debbie Laughlin, whose son was tested. “It was probably a whole combination of things and they can’t really explain exactly why because it is so rare.”
No one is sure if it was the heat, hydration or workouts like those on Sunday. During that day’s workouts, players did pushups and tricep dips.
But no one, including Nice, whose son got out of surgery Friday, blames the game and he said no one should be blamed.
“There’s no one at fault here. This is a once in a lifetime occurrence,” he said.
Previously Coach Kearin coached in California at a private high school in Los Angeles. He resigned from that position last year citing “personal reasons.”
He also had coaching stints at Cal State Northridge and USC.
The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) is the nonprofit organization that coordinates interscholastic sports and activities in the state.
According to the organization, the association’s rules and regulations governing sports practices and competitions don’t go into effect until Monday.
Because this incident happened over summer break, the association said it will be up to Mcminnville Schools to handle the situation; though the association is offering support if needed.