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Rockwall-Heath head football coach placed on leave after parents report student illnesses, hospitalizations

The school said that parents reported their students needing medical attention and/or hospitalization during the team's offseason program.

HEATH, Texas — The head football coach at Rockwall-Heath High School has been placed on leave after multiple parents reported that their students needed medical attention and/or hospitalization during the team's offseason program.

In a letter to parents on Tuesday, the school explained the situation surrounding the varsity football team.

The school said that on Friday, Jan. 6, student-athletes in the eighth-period athletics class with coach John Harrell "were required to perform multiple push-ups."

And then on Monday, the school learned that several parents reported health issues that their children were facing. Some of the cases required hospitalization, according to the school.

A source told WFAA that the students became ill after a strenuous workout that involved more than 300 push-ups over a 60-minute period and that the impacted students were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo).

The district would not confirm how many students were hospitalized or what the circumstances of the workout were.

"Please know the District immediately implemented measures to address the situation and provide support for our students," the school said in the letter.

The school said Rockwall ISD has hired a third party to investigate the situation and any possible connection between the reported illnesses and the activities in that class.

Coach Harrell was also placed on administrative leave amid the investigation, the school said.

WFAA was unable to reach Harrell for comment. 

According to the school, the campus athletic trainer reviewed the symptoms the students were facing and that student-athletes should contact the trainer if they feel the following:

  • Unable to bend or extend your arms
  • Unable to lift arms above your head
  • Dark urine (tea or cola colored)
  • Sharp arm pain

Other symptoms include lack of urinating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, confusion, lethargy or loss of consciousness.

The symptoms listed by the school are symptoms of rhabdo, according to the CDC.

"Student safety is a top priority for Rockwall ISD and we will continue to take immediate and appropriate measures in the best interests of our students as we address the situation," the school said in the letter.

Rhabdo can be serious if not treated quickly. It's caused when muscle tissue breaks down after strenuous exercise and myoglobin is released from the muscles--a dangerous protein that can enter the bloodstream and impact the kidneys or heart. 

It can be fatal or result in permanent disability. Rhabdo can vary from mild to serious cases that require hospitalization. 

If hospitalized, it warrants close monitoring and robust hydration. 

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