IOWA CITY — Iowa football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle spoke with reporters Friday for the first time since 13 players were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis following a workout seven months ago.
Doyle, 43, called the situation a “problem” and emphasized his top concern is safely training Iowa’s football players.
“The well-being of those athletes is our No. 1 priority, period,” Doyle said. “And also for them to be cleared and participate in spring ball was important. This is a high-profile program. Criticism is going to come with the territory, and we can’t concern ourselves with the opinions of outside people.
“Our focus is on the people in the building, the people we work with on a daily basis. The players — first and foremost — and their families, the coaches and the support staff we work with on a daily basis; that’s our focus. We’ve been very happy with our players’ commitment to improvement. Our players’ commitment to sticking together throughout the whole process has been very impressive and excellent. That’s what gives you confidence going into fall camp.”
Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that can result from overexertion of skeletal muscle and that can cause kidney damage. It is potentially fatal.
The workout that sent the players to hospital included 100 squats at 50 percent of their body weight. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said in February the workout would not be repeated, and Doyle confirmed that on Friday. All 13 players were released from the hospital within a week of their condition.
“Over the past 13 years at Iowa, we’ve had 26 cases where we’ve come back into an off-season training site, whether it’s winter or summer,” Doyle said. “We had a problem. We had a problem in January. We’ve moved on.”
A five-person University of Iowa panel investigated the incident and found no negligence with the coaches or staff.
“We had a group of very intelligent people on campus that were put in a position where they conducted a root-cause analysis,” Doyle said. “At the end of that root-cause analysis, that report was made public and we’ve moved on.”
All of the affected players were cleared medically to compete for spring practice. They were carefully integrated into the workout regimen.
Doyle said all of the program’s other assistant coaches enjoy Ferentz’s backing, not just himself. He declined to discuss the support he received from friends and colleagues during the situation.
“That’s not something I’m going to speak about,” Doyle said. “When you’re faced with adversity, the people who are close to you, they’re going to come to your support, and the support was outstanding. You just continue to pick up and move on.”
Doyle said the program’s regimen will evolve because of the rhabdo incident, but the effort won’t change.
“We’re going to train with volume,” he said. “We’re going to train with intensity. We’re going to prepare these guys to play college football.”
Here are two videos of Doyle talking about the subject: