Former Iowa player sues state for muscle injuries caused by football workout

Posted on Mar 13, 2014

Former University of Iowa football player William “Willie” Lowe, one of 13 UI football players hospitalized for potentially-fatal muscle breakdown after a high-intensity workout in 2011, has filed suit against the state in Johnson County.  Lowe alleges that coaches and trainers failed to properly supervise him during the workout, that the school failed to offer medical care after he and others initially reported severe pain and symptoms, and that his injuries were aggravated because he was required to participate in additional workouts in the following days.  Lowe alleges that the team was negligent in “developing and implementing a dangerous improper training program.”

The high-intensity workout, which occurred on January 20, 2011 after a three-week break, caused rhabdomyolysis, a condition where damaged tissue breaks down rapidly, in thirteen players within a week of the workout.  Rhabdomyolysis can lead to kidney failure.  Other players who participated in the workout, which involved strenuous weight-lifting and 100 back squats, experienced serious muscle damages as well.  The workout was only held about once every three years and was partially a test of physical stamina, to see who “wanted to be on the team.” 

The effects of the workout caused a public relations nightmare for head coach Kirk Ferentz and prompted university president Sally Mason to appoint an investigative committee of faculty and staff.  The committee cleared players, coaches, physicians and trainers of wrongdoing in 2011.  The committee also made several recommendations, including that the workout be abandoned and that the football program develop a system to determine when players are experiencing pain due to a workout.

Lowe seeks damages for continued mental and physical pain, loss of earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and potential future medical expenses.

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