Soccer Sports

Rhabdo investigations: Athletics ‘acted appropriately’

Head coach Diego Bocanegra was at the "punishment workout," as an anonymous player described it to KPRC in June, where, according to the rhabdo investigation, the team did 200-300 "up-downs." | File photo

The internal audit released Thursday concluded that while the January workouts were not “punishment workouts,” they were excessive and should’ve been stopped by head coach Diego Bocanegra before the incident escalated. | File photo

Months after anonymous soccer players spoke about “torture almost” workouts last June, a UH System Board of Regents internal audit released Thursday found that UH athletics acted appropriately following the incident.

The audit, which investigated the two incidents that resulted in several Rhabdomyolosis diagnoses, concluded that while the January workouts were not “punishment workouts,” they were excessive and should’ve been stopped by head coach Diego Bocanegra before the incident escalated.

“We determined that this was the first regularly scheduled workout for the soccer team following a return from Winter break (and was not a ‘punishment’ workout),” the report said. “The workout included a strenuous exercise that should not have been used during the first workout after a break.”

Three days after the Jan. 23 workout, one student athlete was hospitalized for Rhabdo, and the following day four more athletes were hospitalized.

Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman, Bocanegra and the soccer team’s doctor made the decision to send the rest of the soccer team to the hospital for evaluation and treatment after the initial hospitalizations were reported.

“As a result of this workout, we determined that a total of six student athletes were hospitalized overnight for treatment of Rhabdo and nine others received treatment for Rhabdo at a hospital and were released the same day,” the report said.

The investigators interviewed 21 individuals, including UH senior management, athletics department management, sports medicine staff, soccer coaching staff and current and former student athletes.

They also reviewed the policies and procedures from the soccer team handbook, and procedures put in place by UH athletics.

“We determined that sports performance had policies similar to those of other universities that focus on liability, access to the weight room, and other facility regulations,” the report said. “Athletics management and sports medicine stated they will continue to evaluate ways to enhance implementation.”

The investigation also looked into the Feb. 9, 2018 workout that resulted in a rhabdo diagnosis and was first reported by KPRC (Channel 2) after they interviewed an anonymous soccer player.

The “punishment” workout, which was described as “torture almost” by the student, included around 250-300 up-downs and was enforced by the former strength and conditioning coach, Minor Bowens, who has since been terminated.

The workout was eventually stopped by Bocanegra, but the student was hospitalized and treated for Rhabdo five days later.

The audit deems that the incident was extreme but because there was no policy prohibiting “punishment” workouts, there is no real punishable offence.

“The Head Women’s Soccer Coach acted appropriately, although he should have stopped the February 2018 workout before it became excessive,” the report said.

UH athletics formally “adopted the Interassociation Recommendations and the UHS Board of Regents policy 22.01, Intercollegiate Athletics” following the board meeting on Thursday, according to the audit.

Additionally, the University will continue looking for ways to protect the health and well-being of student athletes and will work to improve policies to reflect that effort.

“In evaluating opportunities for improvement, management has implemented a more formal structure of communicating serious incidents involving hospitalization,” the report said. “Athletic Department policies and procedures addressing student-athlete health and safety have been enhanced.”

The full rhabdo report can be viewed below:


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