Five University of Iowa football players were released from the hospital Friday afternoon, according to a UI release that included a statement from head football coach Kirk Ferentz.
“I am pleased to learn that five of the 13 members of the UI football team are being discharged from UI Hospitals and Clinics throughout this afternoon and evening," Ferentz said in the release. "I am very happy for these student-athletes and their families, and look forward to the release of the remaining student-athletes in the days ahead."
This was the first public statement from Ferentz, who's entering his 13th season as Iowa's coach.
“I have been communicating with each student-athlete and their parents, or guardians, since learning they were admitted into the hospital," Ferentz said. "Members of the football staff have also been communicating daily with this group. This communication will continue until each student-athlete is able to resume their academic and athletic commitments."
A source with knowledge of the situation told The Gazette the NCAA isn't looking into the matter and doesn't foresee that coming.
Ferentz's silence on the matter has caused a storm in college football national media.
An anonymous parent told ESPN.com Friday that a strength coach told players in a meeting that the team didn't finish games this season and "we'll find out who wants to be here." The Hawkeyes, who finished 8-5, collapsed in the fourth quarter of all five of their defeats.
The ESPN.com story shed some light on several questions about the 13 Hawkeye football players who spent nearly five days in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics because of an outbreak of rhabdomyolysis suffered after winter workouts last week.
-- The Sporting News reported Thursday night that the 13 players were tested for illegal drugs and those tests came back negative. ESPN.com cited a parent saying the results were negative.
Possibly because of The Sporting News report, the UIHC sent employees a reminder on HIPAA privacy laws early Friday. By Friday afternoon, hospital officials announced they are conducting an investigation after a proactive screening of the electronic medical records of the 13 University of Iowa football players indicated that some of those records may have been accessed inappropriately.
-- Ferentz was at the UIHC on Thursday night after returning from a recruiting trip through Ohio and Michigan, a Gazette source confirmed. ESPN.com quoted a parent saying Ferentz was "blistered" for not returning sooner. This was confirmed Friday by a Gazette source.
"I believe he is devastated by all this. He has been wonderful. But his mistake was not coming off the road right away," the parent told ESPN.com.
A source told The Gazette the general mood of the parents is they want the UI to be straightforward and they want to make sure there are safeguards to make sure this doesn't happen again.
Ferentz's son, James, started at center for the Hawkeyes this season. Ferentz's oldest son, Brian, also played center for the Hawkeyes (2003-05). During his time at Iowa, Brian nearly lost a leg to a staph infection.
“As the parent of both a current and former member of the team, the health and well-being of each student-athlete in our football program is paramount," Ferentz said. “I will work with all of the individuals and groups that contribute to the welfare of our student-athletes to understand what led to this occurrence in order to make certain it does not happen again.”
-- ESPN.com also reported that a parent said some players had gained "30 to 50 pounds" since entering the hospital because of the amount of fluids that have been forced into their bodies. Another parent told ESPN.com a player had sustained "20 to 30 loss of kidney function."
Jordan Bernstine is one of the players who is in the UIHC. His brother, Keevon Bernstine, posted on his Facebook account Thursday that he was in Iowa City to check on Jordan and "he is fat as hell."
No player has been on dialysis, according to sources.
Kidney dialysis would be a worse-case scenario with this rhabdomyolysis, but Dr. Bryan Becker, the immediate past president of the National Kidney Foundation and a physician at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said he wouldn't anticipate the acute injury injury to be permanent and they likely would recover.
Five players in UIHC
Bernstine, a senior cornerback, is one of four players who've been hospitalized. Freshman linebacker Jim Poggi, sophomore linebacker Shane DiBona and senior cornerback Willie Lowe also were in the hospital. Senior defensive back Tom Donatell also is among the hospitalized, the Gazette has confirmed.
It's not known if these five were among those released Friday.
WBZ-TV, the CBS affiliate out of Boston, reported that DiBona's mother, Faith, arrived in Iowa City on Thursday night.
She told the station that Shane is "doing much better" and might be out of the hospital Saturday night. She also said the parents would meet with Ferentz and staff about what happened.
DiBona helped lead Duxbury High School to a state championship in 2008. WBZ-TV spoke to Duxbury coach Dave Maimaron.
"There's an investigation and we're relying on the physicians and professionals at the university to help understand it a little bit better," Maimaron said. "Obviously, something went wrong and it's unfortunate that 13 kids are in the hospital."
Becker was asked about the possible role of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly referred to as NSAIDS) in this episode. Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are prominent NSAIDS.
"Medicines like that are marvellous for reducing muscle aches and pains," Becker said. "In the setting of volume depletion or in the setting of kidney injury, such medications, but virtue of how they change bloodflow to the kidney, can exacerbate kidney injury."
Becker also said, however, that he would have a hard time believing that 13 athletes would develop the same unique response to an NSAID.
Environmental factors, such as heat, also could've contributed to this, Becker said. He cited a study that showed rhabdomyolysis in military personnel in southern states due to excessive exertion under "very warm conditions."
"Is environment a potential factor that can enhance the risk for muscle injury in this context, yes based on such studies," Becker said.
The issue of hydration was covered during Wednesday's news conference. Paul Federici, Iowa's director of football operations, said opportunities for hydration are "limitless and widely available."
The UI and Iowa Board of Regents announced Thursday that an investigation into events that led to the athletes' hospitalization would be conducted over the next 90 days.
As for any commonalities to be drawn out of the weekend between these heavy workouts and the athletes' hospitalization, Becker said "it would be inappropriate for me to speculate."
"Certainly, if all of them were participating in the same activity over the weekend, someone who's looking for a source of illness would focus on that," he said, "given that they would've been both occupied in practice and then all done something similar, but I would defer to the people who have take their medical histories."
Meanwhile, the national debate over this topic continued to rage.
"As a lawyer, I have to tell, in my opinion, you're probably looking at some guys thinking about filing suit against the university," ESPN college football analyst Rod Gilmore said Friday on ESPN's "College Football Live."
Gilmore went on to say, "He's a good guy, we all like Kirk Ferentz. He's a good coach, there's no question about that, but he made some mistakes." Gilmore listed oversight of the program and being on the road recruiting while 13 players were admitted to the UIHC.
The Iowa debate led the show and lasted nearly six minutes.
Several former Iowa players came to the defense of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who, according to sources, is shaken over the incident.
"Stand behind Kirk and the program. I did Doyle's workouts for 7 years in the NFL as well," former Iowa defensive back Matt Bowen wrote on his Twitter account Friday.
NFL player agent Jack Bechta, who represents several former Iowa players now in the NFL, also tweeted, "Everyone of my Iowa clients I spoke with [showed] 110% supportive of coach Doyle and his program. they all did the same exact workout more than once."
Bechta also said clients Tony Moeaki (former Hawkeye, now tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs) and Pat Angerer (UI linebacker now with the Indianapolis Colts) still train with Doyle in the offseason.
Adam Blalock, the co-director of Performance Sport & Speed in Coralville, part of Performance Therapies, also had high praise for Doyle.
“Other than this one instance, the way he’s run his program is ideal," Blalock told The Gazette. "When you want a job in this business, you put Doyle as a reference. If someone on the East Coast calls him about a strength coach and he says ‘Hire this guy,’ they hire him.”
No news conference has been scheduled with Ferentz, Doyle or athletics director Gary Barta, who was out of town this week. Ferentz has annually met with the media on national signing day, which is next Wednesday.
“I will work with all of the individuals and groups that contribute to the welfare of our student-athletes to understand what led to this occurrence in order to make certain it does not happen again," Ferentz said in the statement.
KIRK FERENTZ STATEMENT
IOWA CITY, IA – The following is statement issued today by University of Iowa Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz.
“I am pleased to learn that five of the 13 members of the UI football team are being discharged from UI Hospitals and Clinics throughout this afternoon and evening. I am very happy for these student-athletes and their families, and look forward to the release of the remaining student-athletes in the days ahead.
“Our entire staff shares the concern expressed by University of Iowa President Sally Mason and President David Miles of the Iowa Board of Regents and the State of Iowa, for the well-being and continued recovery of every student-athlete treated at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
“I have been communicating with each student-athlete and their parents, or guardians, since learning they were admitted into the hospital. Members of the football staff have also been communicating daily with this group. This communication will continue until each student-athlete is able to resume their academic and athletic commitments.
“As the parent of both a current and former member of the team, the health and well-being of each student-athlete in our football program is paramount.“I will work with all of the individuals and groups that contribute to the welfare of our student-athletes to understand what led to this occurrence in order to make certain it does not happen again."