Former University of Oregon football player Doug Brenner has filed a lawsuit against the school, former head coach Willie Taggart, former strength coach Irele Oderinde and the NCAA claiming that all were negligent in their handling of an offseason workout that landed Brenner in the hospital.
In January 2017, the Oregon football program made headlines when Brenner and two of his teammates were hospitalized and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — a syndrome brought on by extreme exertion, where muscle fibers break down and leak into the bloodstream.
The Oregonian reports that Brenner’s 18-page lawsuit alleges that the individual defendants were negligent in imposing and carrying out the workouts, while the institutional defendants were negligent in failing to properly regulate and supervise them.
At the time, the workouts were described as akin to basic training in the military, with one involving up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs. The suit alleges that the workouts were designed to be punishing.
“The drills were done in unison, and whenever a player faltered, vomited, or fainted, his teammates were immediately punished with additional repetitions,” said Mark McDougal, one of Brenner’s lawyers, in a statement.
The Oregonian reported at the time of the incident that water was available to players, and that players could ask to sit out if necessary, but Brenner’s suit alleges that players were not permitted to drink water during the first day of the intense workouts.
Oderinde was suspended without pay for a month as a result of the rhabdo diagnoses. Both he and Taggart are now employed as coaches at Florida State University.
“A key goal of this lawsuit is to force the NCAA to ban these kinds of punishing, abusive workouts,” McDougal said. “These workouts are contrary to NCAA guidelines for protecting players from injury and death. The NCAA needs to enact and enforce regulations that outlaw these practices.”
NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline issued new guidelines for how to best handle exertional rhabdomyolysis in Feb. 2018.
Brenner’s lawsuit is seeking $11.5 million in damages. The other players who were hospitalized at the time are not a party to the suit.