LINCOLN — Two Husker football players were sent to the hospital after offseason workouts last week, head coach Scott Frost confirmed on Tuesday.
Sophomore receiver Tyjon Lindsey and senior defensive lineman Dylan Owen were admitted to a Lincoln hospital with rhabdomyolysis last Tuesday.
“Anything that happens in this program is my responsibility. And I feel terrible about it,” Frost said. “Hopefully we never have to go through this transition again, but we’ll certainly learn from it. It’s important people understand that player safety and well-being is our No. 1 priority. We certainly were concerned about this and we’re really happy the players are in the clear now.”
Rhabdo, as it is commonly known, results from the death of muscle fibers which then leaks into the bloodstream and can cause serious kidney problems, according to the NCAA medical handbook.
Symptoms include muscle pain, inability to move arms and legs, dark red or brown urine, and in some cases, kidney failure. Lindsey was in the hospital for three days, Owen for two. Both are back with the team, Frost said.
A source told The World-Herald the hospitalizations came after a workout on last week. Nebraska officials did not confirm the news last Friday or on Monday, but Frost himself called two news organizations, including The World-Herald, to confirm the news.
“I’d never heard of ‘rhabdo’ until a few schools had had it, and my impression was always it happens when you do some crazy military-type workout or you run the kids until they drop. I just didn’t expect it to happen with us,” Frost said. “The workout that got them in trouble was a 32- to-36-minute weight workout. All they were doing is lifting. The workout was supposed to be longer than that, but Zach (Duval) cut it down to try and break the kids in, and I think the majority of the team reacted just fine, but there were a couple of kids who reacted poorly to it.”
Frost said there were trainers in the weight room to monitor kids and pull them out if they were struggling.
“And then the next day, and two days later, (Lindsey and Owen) were complaining of symptoms, and I think what really tipped people off was the discoloration of urine,” Frost said. “At that point we wanted to take any precaution as we could, so we got guys as much help as we could and got them to the hospital.”
Frost said he doesn’t put any blame on Duval, who was hired by Frost from Central Florida to lead Husker football strength and conditioning operations. Duval has extensive ties to Nebraska, including as a student assistant at Nebraska in 1994, a graduate assistant in 1995 and 1996, and assistant football strength coach from 1997 to 2002, and in 2008.
“Zach Duval, my strength and conditioning coach, he’s been through transitions like this about five times and I have complete trust in him,” Frost said. “When we got in we were a little concerned about the conditioning of the team, so they did some baseline testing, some body composition work, and actually, for how Zach would normally roll out the conditioning program, he actually backed off that quite a bit, and we still had a problem. So there was a lot of attention paid to how this would go, and as much as we tried to be attentive to how they needed to start, we still made a mistake.”
A year ago, Oregon sent three players to the hospital with rhabdo after offseason workouts. The hospitalizations also came after an offseason without a bowl game, and a transition of coaches from Mark Helfrich to Willie Taggart. After the story broke in the Oregonian, Oregon suspended its strength coach and issued an apology.
In 2011, 13 players were hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis after intense offseason workouts at Iowa. Following an internal investigation, Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta implemented recommendations on changes to the offseason weight training program.
Rhabdo usually occurs after an increase in workout intensity. With no bowl practice for the first time since 2007, Nebraska players were on their own to work out for winter break until winter workouts began in early January.
“I want kids to know their safety is our first priority, and we do feel bad about it,” Frost said. “Once I was made aware of it, they were in good hands on their way to recovery. I’m glad there were good people on campus to take care of them.”