Message from Student Life on rhabdomyolysis investigation report
Dear TWU Community,
I am sharing with you today the external investigation report into what caused eight volleyball student-athletes to be hospitalized in August 2016 with exertional rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving muscle tissue breakdown. A sports and education law firm led by Michael L. Buckner conducted the independent, external investigation and compiled the report. A copy of the report can be found at http://www.twu.edu/media/documents/news/TWUrhabdoreport.pdf.
The report and a press release will be shared with the media later this morning. A copy of the press release can be found at https://www.twu.edu/news-events/news/texas-womans-university-releases-rhabdomyolysis-investigation-report/.
Buckner also shared recommendations with the university to prevent a reoccurrence of rhabdomyolysis. A copy of those recommendations is available at http://www.twu.edu/media/documents/news/TWUbucknerrecommendations.pdf.
I met with our student-athletes earlier this week, and they have released the following statement on the report:
“We are all eager to put this behind us and move forward. Our focus is on next season, and we are looking forward to the future. We would also like to thank Dr. Mendez-Grant for her leadership and guidance throughout the entire process."
— Texas Woman’s University Volleyball Team
I appreciate the cooperation of the student-athletes, Athletics staff, medical personnel and others who participated in this thorough investigation.
In summary, the report affirms the university’s initial beliefs that overexertion coupled with dehydration during preseason fitness tests caused the student-athletes to develop rhabdomyolysis. It also includes a third finding of “low-level fitness of the triceps muscle” as a contributing factor.
We cannot fulfill our mission as an institution of higher learning without providing for the welfare of our students and our community. There is important work ahead as we continue to implement improvements with our athletic programs. As the leader of the Office of Student life, I accept responsibility for mistakes made during fitness testing with our volleyball players. I apologized to each student-athlete during the fall, and I do so again now publicly.
We are accepting the findings by our external investigator and are taking the report’s findings seriously. We have implemented changes and will continue to address issues to ensure that this does not happen again.
I also believe communication between athletic coaches and staff could have been improved. Formal lines of communication have been addressed to ensure we have staff in addition to our coaches examining our fitness assessments and preseason workouts.
In response to the rhabdomyolysis outbreak, TWU Athletics has:
- Required education on rhabdomyolysis for all Athletics staff and student-athletes;
- Put steps in place to change the strength and conditioning coach position from a graduate assistant to a full-time staff position;
- Strengthened the lines of communication between coaches, athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff through job descriptions and organizational reporting;
- Designed and conducted fitness assessments to take into consideration the acclimatization of each specific sport;
- Returned to individual fitness assessments;
- Placed numerous posters about hydration and urine in athletic facilities,
- Heightened emphasis on hydration by coaches during practices and competitions;
- Increased administrative oversight to preseason scheduling for soccer and volleyball, because these preseasons are condensed to two weeks and are coming off summer break; and
- Ensured that appropriate sport-specific fitness testing is vetted by coaches, athletic trainers and the strength and conditioning coach with authority resting with the assistant director of athletics for sports medicine (and authority always rests with the director of athletics.)
The Athletics Department also plans to host an educational presentation with an expert in the field of exertional rhabdomyolysis for the Athletics staff and other university departments. Additional nutrition services and consultations also are planned.
Our Athletic programs always have played an important role in university life at TWU. We are so proud of the rich traditions and of the success our student-athletes have both in the field of competition and in the classroom. I am confident that our legacy will move forward with our diligent attention to the health and well-being of our students.
Vice President for Student Life