National Strength and Conditioning Association Speaks Out on Keeping Student Athletes Safe

Worldwide authorities seek to increase awareness of the causes and symptoms of condition that led to the hospitalization of 13 University of Iowa football players

Mar 29, 2011, 08:00 ET from National Strength and Conditioning Association

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Student sports have made national headlines recently, but not always for positive reasons. There are inherent risks associated with sports participation.  However, the type of injuries and issues that are being seen in the training of competitive collegiate athletes are not acceptable and are very preventable. Now with renewed interest in this topic, the National Strength and Conditioning Association (, the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning, is speaking out, hoping that by increasing awareness among coaches and student athletes, its experts can ensure that athletes are maximizing their performance gains through properly developed, scientifically based training programs that maintains the health and safety of the student athlete.  

In January 2011, 13 members of the University of Iowa became ill and were admitted to hospitals and clinics following their first workout after their winter break. The athletes were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscles break down quickly and their contents enter the bloodstream.

"The Iowa incident should serve as an important reminder to all strength coaches that they should not only be educated about rhabdomyolysis, its causes and its symptoms, but also on how to appropriately manipulate training program variables that reduce the risk for these unwarranted outcomes," comments the NSCA's Board President, Dr. Jay Hoffman.  Dr. Hoffman further adds, rhabdomyolysis is not an expected or an acceptable outcome of any training program.  It is NOT part of the inherent risk associated with athletic competition, and is a sign that the training program was inappropriate for those athletes at that time of the year.

Existing guidelines that reduce the risk factors

After the incident, the University's internal review committee found that the number of sets, the required time to complete the workout and the percent of bodyweight used were the strongest risk factors in the 13 hospitalized players. "This workout is not a common workout and has no scientific basis to be used to train college athletes," stated Dr. Hoffman.

"This points to the need for all strength coaches to stay within the NSCA-recommended standards and guidelines when training athletes," says NSCA Director of Coaching Performance Boyd Epley. Those guidelines can be found at  Epley advises that the long break that preceded the athletes' intense workout may also have been a contributing factor. "Coaches always need to allow their athletes to acclimate to the intensity of a workout before adding additional intensity," he cautions.

Furthermore, the NSCA strongly disagrees with the University of Iowa strength and conditioning staff assertion that the basis of their workout was from a paper published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The paper in question (JSCR; 2008:22:250-5) did not use 10 sets of 10 repetitions for the squat exercise, but instead used two machine squat exercises performing 5 sets of 10 repetitions in recreationally trained individuals.  The physiological and biomechanical stresses are quite different and the results of that paper should never have been extrapolated to what could be used in competitive athletes.

In the wake of this emergency situation, the NSCA concurs with the review committee which recommended better communication between the strength coaches, athletic trainers and the team physicians. "This is a basic tenant to which all NSCA strength and conditioning coaches adhere," says Coach Epley. "It is important that programs be designed based on the individual needs of the athlete however, all parties should have been made aware of the program's specifics."  The NSCA also suggests that the University of Iowa ensure that members of their strength and conditioning staff are all certified by an accredited certifying body, maintain continuing education, and adhere to the published standards and guidelines that provide the basis for exercise prescription in athletes of all levels of competition.  In addition, the NSCA is strongly opposed to using strength and conditioning sessions as a punishment to team outcome or infractions, these incidents have proven to be dangerous and at times fatal.  To reduce the risk of such incidences the NSCA recommends that strength and conditioning staffs be independent of any sports staff to provide complete objectiveness to the development of the athlete's strength and conditioning program.

The NSCA reaches out to the nation's coaches

Both Hoffman and Boyd state that the NSCA is so deeply concerned that schools have appropriate emergency management programs in place that they are stepping forward to offer their organization's assistance. "These programs should include a robust emergency communication component to notify parents, athletes and other affected individuals of an adverse situation," says Hoffman. "School coaching staffs wishing to develop stronger emergency management programs should contact the NSCA at 800-815-6826."

For more information regarding this press release or to schedule an interview, please contact Greg Nockleby at 800-815-6826 or

About the National Strength & Conditioning Association

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978. Evolving from a membership of 76, the association now serves over 35,000 members in 74 countries. Drawing upon its vast network of members, the NSCA develops and presents the most advanced information regarding strength training and conditioning practices, injury prevention, and research findings.

SOURCE National Strength and Conditioning Association