FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2009, file photo, Arkansas State's Brandon Thompkins, left, catches a touchdown pass over Iowa's William Lowe during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in Iowa City, Iowa. The University of Iowa settled a lawsuit Friday, Jan. 16, 2016, with a former football player who was one of 13 Hawkeyes hospitalized with a serious muscle disorder following a high-intensity 2011 workout. A lawyer representing the university notified court officials of the settlement with William Lowe ahead of a pre-trial conference. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa said Friday it will pay $15,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a football player who was one of 13 Hawkeyes hospitalized with a serious muscle disorder following a high-intensity 2011 workout.
A university lawyer notified court officials of the settlement with William Lowe ahead of a hearing Friday in his personal injury lawsuit. School spokeswoman Jeneane Beck said hours later the university will make the $15,000 settlement payment — a fraction of Lowe's initial $200,000 claim — once a state panel signs off.
Lowe's lawsuit alleged that coaches and trainers failed to properly supervise the January 2011 workout and didn't immediately offer medical care after he and others reported severe pain and symptoms. The former backup cornerback argued that his injuries were aggravated because he was required to participate in additional workouts in the following days.
Lowe and 12 others were eventually hospitalized and diagnosed with exertional rhabdomyolysis, which is the result of muscles breaking down and releasing proteins into the bloodstream. It can cause kidney failure and even death. Now 26, the Cleveland native contended the program was negligent in "developing and implementing a dangerous improper training program" and should have to pay damages for his pain and suffering. Trial had been scheduled for later this month in Iowa City.
Lowe's attorney, Brian Galligan, said his client was "satisfied with the amicable resolution" of the lawsuit. He noted the university had already paid for some of Lowe's hospital and medical expenses and allowed him to remain on scholarship his senior year after he quit the team.
Galligan praised the university for using the case to raise awareness about rhabdomyolysis and helping other athletic programs avoid similar problems.
"Willie Lowe's chief concern has always been making sure that other student athletes are not unnecessarily placed at risk of harm, as he was," Galligan said.
The settlement ends a difficult chapter for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and the team's highly regarded strength and conditioning coach, Chris Doyle.
Lowe was the only player to file a claim, and none of the others have received any payments, Beck said.
"The university is pleased to have resolved this matter by mutual agreement which is beneficial for all involved and brings the matter to a close," she said.
The workout was only held once every three years as a test of physical stamina, mental toughness and to see who "wanted to be on the team," according to an investigative committee report commissioned by Iowa. The most grueling part were the 100 back squats players were asked to do at 50 percent of their most recent personal best. A study by University of Iowa doctors concluded that those squats were "significantly associated" with an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis — with affected players more likely to think they could complete the untimed workout despite muscle failure.
The investigation cleared trainers and coaches of wrongdoing, determining that the injuries were unintentional and not the fault of those who designed the workout. But the school adopted the committee's recommendations to discontinue the workout and to develop mechanisms to better identify players who are suffering health complications.
Lowe alleged in his lawsuit that he and others reported "substantial leg pain and stiffness as well as abnormally dark urine" after that workout and extreme fatigue. Despite such reports, Lowe says injured players were required to participate in a mandatory intensive workout the next day focusing on their upper body muscles. After taking the weekend off, players had another mandatory workout Jan. 24.
Within hours, Lowe and others started showing up at the hospital and were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis.
Lowe spent about a week in the hospital, and his lawsuit said he suffered from weight loss, pain in his lower back and legs, headaches and high blood pressure over the next several months. Lowe, who played sparingly in three seasons at Iowa, never rejoined the team.