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At Least 8 Student Athletes Hospitalized After Aggressive Workout - Now CPS is Getting Involved

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An investigation is underway into complaints that a workout ordered by a Texas high school football coach led to multiple athletes being hospitalized.

The incident involves Rockwall-Heath High School. Two parents who were not named by the Dallas Morning News said that based on their conversations with other parents, at least eight students went to a hospital.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said it is now part of an investigation, according to KDFW-TV, which said Child Protective Services is also looking at the incident.

Parent Osehotue Okojie said her son showed symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, sometimes called “rhabdo.”

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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website that rhabdomyolysis “is a serious medical condition that can be fatal or result in permanent disability.”

The condition strikes “when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood. These substances can damage the heart and kidneys and cause permanent disability or even death,” the CDC said.

Okojie told KDFW her son “couldn’t lift his arms, brush his teeth. He could not lift his hands to wash his face. He had swelling in his muscles.”

She said that on Friday, Jan. 6, football team members had to do 400 pushups, starting over if anyone stopped, adding that from what she was told, “it was a form of punishment.” WFAA-TV quoted a source as saying athletes had to do more than 300 pushups in 60 minutes.

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“I’ve spoken to military folks, and they haven’t done that level of workout and these are children,” Okojie said

Maria Avila, who spoke to KDFW through a translator, said when her son came home that Friday,  “His arms were swollen. He couldn’t brush his teeth. I didn’t know what the consequences of these pushups.”

Okojie said she spoke up because students complaining about the impact of the workout were being criticized.

“When you have a narrative our kids are soft or entitled, it’s far from that,” Okojie said.

The school said that on that day, under the direction of football coach John Harrell, students “were required to perform multiple push-ups,” according to WFAA-TV.

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The district has not confirmed how many students were hospitalized.

“Please know the District immediately implemented measures to address the situation and provide support for our students,” the school said in the letter, according to WFAA. The district said Harrell had been placed on administrative leave and that a third party had been hired by the district to investigate the incident.

The school said students should see a trainer if they have symptoms that include being unable to bend or extend their arms, being unable to lift their arms above the head, having dark urine and experiencing sharp arm pain.

Junior Brady Luff, a team captain, defended Harrell, according to WFAA-TV.

“Heath football, it’s a brotherhood … these coaches have treated me with so much respect and have treated me like their son,” Luff said.

Luff said the workout in question “wasn’t any different than any workout we’ve done before, intensity-wise. Our motto, it’s the number 16. Sixteen ball games to win a championship. We do these workouts and it’s all about discipline. If we get them right, we move on. If not, we do 16 push-ups.”

“I’ve heard people say that we didn’t have water and that is not true,” Luff said. “We have these big jugs full of water. You can go there in between reps and get water whenever you want. No one was deprived of water.”

Luff said Harrell “would never make us do a workout thinking it was gonna put any of us at risk.”

“I want people to know that Coach Harrell is a great man and he’s treated us with nothing but respect. He loves every single one of us,” he added.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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