New Braunfels Middle School student Gavin Hurd has always been an athlete — dedicating his time to conditioning his body to perform the way the sport demands.
That’s why when he couldn’t complete a full push-up on the second day of an intense athletic period he knew something wasn’t quite right.
The following day Gavin’s muscles were so sore he couldn’t lift his arms, said Michelle Hurd, Gavin’s mother.
“His arms were very swollen and he looked like he had man muscles for a little 13-year-old, and that’s when I knew … something’s not right here,” Michelle said. “I went to just touch his arm and you would have thought, you know, I beat him, or something — it was horrible.”
The 13-year-old was taken to the doctor where they discovered the kinase levels in his bloodstream were dangerously high and he needed to be taken to the hospital.
At the hospital he was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis — a condition that deteriorates muscle tissue and sends threatening proteins into the bloodstream, which can cause kidney and liver damage, and in some cases, death.
That was over a week ago, as he was first taken to the hospital on the night of Friday, Jan 13.
When asked for comment, NBISD Athletic Director Jim Streety issued a written response to the Herald-Zeitung.
“A student is in the hospital after participating in an athletic training program conducted during the school day,” the response read. “Upon learning about the incident, we immediately were in contact with the family, and have been since the incident. Due to the seriousness of this situation, we are conducting an investigation, and through this process, we are reflecting on the structure of our athletic periods.”
Gavin is still in the hospital being treated for what doctors believe is a result of the workout, which included 300 push-ups over two days as punishment for not performing exercises correctly, his mother said.
“We’re only in seventh grade, I don’t think we should be doing 300 push-ups,” Gavin said. “That’s kind of a little too much for 13-year-olds. Our bodies are still developing, and I think that they should maybe just teach us the correct form and how to workout instead of making us go headfirst working heavy (stuff).”
Gavin’s mother wrote down the exercise regime, which the 13-year-old said takes place for 45 minutes each scheduled day and continues until it’s done perfectly.
The basketball player, along with others in his group, performed 35 push-ups to start followed by bear crawls and another 25 push-ups, then crab walks earning the players 16 push-ups, gladiator drills at 16 push-ups, jump rope and a round of 50 push-ups, bar curls and 25 push-ups and finished off with 10 push-ups.
When added, the total came to 177 push-ups, and while engaging in the same exercises the next day, the teen said he was made to do 134 push-ups for a grand total of 311 push ups.
According to Gavin the coaches didn’t have the team stretch beforehand.
“I respected (my coach) a little bit, but I kind of lost some respect for him now,” Gavin said. “I still love sports, and I still love working out and running and stuff … but it’s like I kind of don’t want to go to athletics anymore, because I feel like I don’t trust them.”
In his response, Streety said NBISD prioritizes student safety.
“Regardless if a student is on the field or in the classroom, our priority is our students’ safety and welfare,” Streety said. “We want our students that participate in extracurricular activities to have a positive and healthy experience. We will continue to offer support to the family and the student during this time.”
Gavin’s mother claims the family exchanged a few emails and phone calls with the school’s principal since his hospitalization.
On Tuesday the school’s coach reached out, along with the athletic trainer, and spoke with additional coaches and the district’s athletic director on Thursday, Michelle’s husband, Chris Hurd, said.
New Braunfels Middle School period athletics has discontinued the use of push-ups when paired with the exercises, according to Executive Director of Communications Rebecca Villarreal.
Gavin’s situation isn’t exactly unique.
Over the last several weeks reports of similar incidents in other Texas schools have occurred.
A female wrestler at McMillen High School was taken to the hospital Sunday, Jan. 15 by her father after suffering an injury sneaking out of the house, and was later diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis.
Before the accident the teen’s coaches sentenced her to long periods of bear crawls as punishment for something that occurred outside athletics, said Amy Lynd, the girl’s mother.
The wrestler, who had just returned to the sport after an extended hiatus, endured day one of the activity and never came back.
“She was really excited to get back into wrestling, and (the coach) told her that if she wanted to stay in wrestling, she had to do two hours of bear crawls for three days in a row,” Lynd said. “She did that first day, and she said, ‘I’m done. I’m not doing wrestling anymore.’”
While some blame the injury for rhabdomyolysis, the National Library of Medicine says it takes 48 to 72 hours after a workout to reach its peak.
Lynd strongly believes the exercise caused her daughter’s elevated kinase levels, which left her hospitalized for roughly four days.
In a situation that made headline news, over 15 football players at Rockwall-Heath High School outside Dallas were sent to the hospital days after a strenuous workout, which included 400 push-ups.
Dr. Osehotue Okojie’s 15-year-old son participated in an offseason practice Friday, Jan. 6 during which team members performed typical football exercises with push-ups assigned as punishment.
“There were like 23 sets of 16 push-ups,” Dr. Okojie said. “If somebody dropped they would have to start all over again, so it was like a military-style type of deal.”
Dr. Okojie’s son had recently suffered a wrist fracture and was restricted to lower leg exercises, and even though the athlete was in immense pain he continued — without water breaks, Dr. Okojie said.
“One of the coaches said to him, ‘Your wrist should be healed by now, keep going,’” Dr. Okojie said.
When he came home he was delirious and in a lot of pain, Dr. Okojie said.
“I couldn’t even touch my kid,” Dr. Okojie said. “He couldn’t lift his arms, he couldn’t brush his teeth, couldn’t wash his face — nothing. He was unable to use his arms; he was in so much pain from it.”
The athlete was admitted to the hospital Monday, Jan. 9 where they found out his kinase levels were registering at 139,000 — a healthy teenager should have very little or none at all.
After a heavy course of hydration treatment Dr. Okojie’s son was released Sunday, Jan. 15.
Since the incident, the head football coach has been placed on paid administrative leave. Meanwhile, Dr. Okojie has received angry messages from strangers for daring to speak out.
Child Protective Services is investigating the matter that sent several players to the hospital — some to the intensive care unit, and left at least one on dialysis, according to Dr. Okojie.
“Does someone have to literally die before we do something to change this culture, and narrative that we’re going to blame the victim and their families as opposed to look at what could have been done differently to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Dr. Okojie said.