Investigation planned for McMinnville football team medical scare


by Wayne Havrelly, KGW staff

Posted on August 23, 2010 at 11:09 AM

MCMINNVILLE -- Practices for fall sports begins at all schools Monday and McMinnville was not planning on canceling football despite last week's medical scare during an immersive football camp.

Oregon School Activities Association executive director Tom Welter said the organization's medical committee will investigate and make recommendations to the executive board after its next meeting in September. The OSAA oversees school sports in the state.

Dozens of players started to suffer severe swelling and pain during an in-school retreat at the school last week that included workouts several times a day.

At least 31 players showed symptoms and several had to have surgery to relieve the swelling, called Compartment Syndrome.

Medical experts were scratching their heads about what caused the the triceps muscles of the players to swell.

Players showed high levels of an enzyme called creatine kinase, which is a sign of vigorous exercise. The enzyme should not be confused with the over-the-counter supplement that is generically called creatine.

Test results should start coming in next Wednesday to help determine if McMinnville High School football players have a body-building supplement called creatine in their blood, said Rosemary Davis, spokeswoman for Willamette Valley Medical Center.

“This is extremely unusual,” said Dr. Michael Koester who is chairman of sports medicine for the Oregon School Activities Association. “Millions of kids that participate in high school athletics year after year and this is the first case I’ve heard, in doing this in the past 20 years.”

The school district brought in experts to analyze first year head coach Jeff Kearins’ workouts.

"From all we've obtained we don't believe the workout was unreasonable,"said Superintendent Maryalice Russell.

Many of the players agree. “We only worked out for 30 minutes at a time, nothing hard, just light work,” said Jacob Montgomery one of the hospitalized players.

So how did several dozen players fall ill?

Newschannel 8 learned blood testing is underway to see if the players have high levels of the nutritional supplement creatine. It’s something popular with professional football players. It is not illegal.

“There have been some case reports that have associated creatine intake with Compartment Syndrome,” said Koester.

Several parents and players maintain their kids never took the creatine supplement.

Dennis Nice has two sons hospitalized with the syndrome.  He said the kids just started working out together last week and didn’t take any special supplements.

Dr. Koester wonders if something like creatine may have been hiding in something innocent.

"All supplements are unregulated. There’s nobody that defines what’s actually in them, so if you go and pick up a new protein powder at the local health food store it's not regulated,” said Koester.