Parents of hospitalized Rockwall-Heath High School football players speak out against coaches

ROCKWALL, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — It’s been almost a week since Rockwall-Heath High School Head Coach John Harrell was placed on administrative leave. 

The district is investigating after several student athletes had to go to the hospital following an offseason workout, and now parents of players are speaking out. 

They’re hoping to educate others about what exactly happened and to hold those responsible accountable. 

After spending a week in the hospital, Dr. Osehotue Okojie’s son has been cleared to come home.

“It’s been a nightmare of a week,” Dr. Okojie said. “It really has. My son was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis and Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition.”

As a medical doctor, she explains this is a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a damaging protein into the blood. It can affect your kidneys, liver and heart and have long-term complications. 

“You know Rhabdomyolysis doesn’t just fall from the sky,” she said. “It’s usually from overuse and it’s not common.”

Dr. Okojie says 10 days ago her son, a sophomore at Rockwall-Heath, came home from an offseason football workout in pain. He was unable to lift his arms and had brown urine. He told her players had to do close to 400 push-ups in addition to other workouts with no water breaks.

“In my child’s case specifically, he just had a fracture in his right wrist so he wasn’t even supposed to be cleared,” she said. 

She says in the following days, more than a dozen players had to be hospitalized. 

“My son came home,” Maria Avila said. “He was very stiff. He could not move his arms. For me it’s a nightmare. So frustrating. It worries me because it affects my son’s mental health.” 

Harrell is on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident.

“I think that when you have children who are harmed in this way, to the severity that they were harmed, there has to be accountability,” Dr. Okojie said.

Parents hope changes are made in the future. 

“I think it’s very important that we need to stress health versus just solely focusing on winning,” Dr. Okojie said. “Are we winning at what cost?” 

Parents are going to let the investigation play out, and say Harrell was not the only coach in the room the day of the workout and wish others would have stepped in.