Mystery Illness Strikes 12 High School Football Players

Three had to undergo surgery to relieve dangerously swollen muscles.

ByABC News
August 21, 2010, 3:22 PM

Aug. 21, 2010— -- Doctors and school officials are trying to determine why 12 Oregon high school football players suffered mysterious muscle problems that landed them in the hospital last week.

Three of the McMinnville High School football players had to undergo surgery for compartment syndrome, a condition where swelling muscles are compressed by the fascia, begin to deteriorate, and emit toxins into the blood, a hospital official said. The rest were treated with intravenous hydration to flush the toxins out of their blood.

"The school district and medical center are doing everything they can to pinpoint a causative factor and right now we don't have a cause," Willamette Valley Medical Center CEO Rosemari Davis said.

The football players had been training throughout the summer, but began immersion camp on Monday, Davis said. On Tuesday evening the first athlete began complaining that his hands didn't feel right, that he couldn't bend his elbows and his upper arms were swollen.

Three more football players began suffering identical symptoms on Wednesday, and by Friday a total of 12 athletes had been hospitalized with similar problems, Davis said.

Blood tests for toxins normally bring CK readings of 200 to 2,000, but the three who needed surgery to release the swelling of their muscles had readings of over 40,000, Davis said. The other athletes who were hospitalized had readings of between 3,000 and 40,000.

In all, 34 students had blood drawn for testing.

At a news conference on Friday, McMinnville Schools Superintendent Maryalice Russell said she didn't believe the problems were caused by the type of workouts the players were doing during the immersion camp.