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All Ore. prep football players sick with mystery illness out of hospital

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The last member of an Oregon high school football team to remain hospitalized with a rare and painful upper-arm ailment was released Tuesday, according to Willamette Valley Medical Center.

The unidentified boy was one of 24 McMinnville High School players sent to the hospital last week after a preseason workout under new coach Jeff Kearin. Health officials have yet to determine what triggered the medical problem known as compartment syndrome, a soft-tissue condition that caused soreness and swelling in the triceps.

Dr. Craig Winkler, who treated some of the athletes, said Tuesday it was likely a combination of heat, dehydration and the intensity of the workout.

The hospital also tested the players to see if the muscle-enhancing supplement creatine might have played a role.

Dennis Nice, who has two sons who were hospitalized, said neither of his boys took creatine and he doubts other players did. He said some of the athletes would have confessed to doctors, knowing a lie would be exposed in test results.

"I've been talking to these guys and they all knew they were being tested for creatine levels," he said. "They're adamant, to a man, that they didn't take anything."

Some players acknowledged to doctors that they drank protein shakes this summer, but it's unknown if those drinks contained the supplement.

The first players brought to the hospital with severe triceps pain had elevated levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, or CK, which is released by muscles when they're injured and is not to be confused with the creatine supplement.

That prompted the rest of the team to be screened for CK, and additional players were sent to the hospital because of high levels.

Three players with the triceps pain needed surgery to relieve pressure caused by swelling. One of them, Dennis Nice's 16-year-old son, Daniel, was released from the hospital late Monday and won't be allowed to practice until after he gets his stitches removed.

"He's over at the football field watching," Nice said. "He wants to get back on the field."

Nice's other son on the team, 17-year-old Josh Nice, was released from the hospital Monday and was back at practice Tuesday.

The players with compartment syndrome had taken part in a triceps-focused workout in the school's weight room on Aug. 15. It was a hot day and the room was not air conditioned.

Dr. Katrina Hedberg, the state epidemiologist, said a team from the public health division was investigating the case to find out what happened and try to prevent it from happening again.

The team is interviewing coaches, players, trainers and others and will also look at environmental factors.

Parents of the football players were expected to meet with a pair of doctors Tuesday to get some answers on the mysterious cluster of ailments.

"We're all dumbfounded about what's going on," said Heather Draper, the mother of offensive lineman Devin Draper.