The University of Houston is granting its strength and conditioning coaches and sports medicine staff "unchallenged authority" over the safety of athletes in response to a rash rhabdomyolysis cases affecting the athletic department earlier this year.
Caused by extreme exertion, rhabdomyolysis involves the release of damaged muscle tissue into the bloodstream.
At its meeting earlier this month, the UH Board of Regents moved to implement policy changes to safeguard student-athlete health following workout-related injuries suffered by a dozen women's soccer players. All students recovered and returned to the team.
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Per the regents' action, sports medicine staff members are now permitted to pull any athlete out of practice who they feel are exhibiting signs of physical distress, according to Chris Pezman, the university's vice president of athletics. This fall, the athletic department also will implement the use of heart rate sensors, as well as a system that tracks how much an athlete moves through the course of a practice. In addition, the university's indoor practice facility will be used more often, and open to all athletics team, to provide protection from oppressive outdoor conditions. Finally, the university will provide health insurance coverage to all uninsured student-athletes.
Costs associated with the policy changes are expected to exceed $1 million.
"At the end of the day, we’re entrusted with really valuable resources, which is these kids, and we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of them," Pezman said, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. "Everybody has their radar up, because you can’t risk losing your reputation over being not attuned or paying attention."