Current, former directors of athletic medicine at UO testify about Doug Brenner’s treatment amid January 2017 rhabdomyolysis
EUGENE — Two more current members and the former head of the University of Oregon’s athletic medicine staff testified in the civil trial brought by former Ducks offensive lineman Doug Brenner against UO, former football coach Willie Taggart, former strength coach Irele Oderinde and the NCAA.
Neither Dr. Craig Davidson, now UO’s director of athletic medicine, nor Kim Terrell, senior associate director of athletic medicine, were present during the January 2017 workouts that led to the hospitalizations of Brenner and two teammates. But Davidson and Terrell spoke in Lane County Circuit Court on Thursday about their treatment of Brenner and Oregon’s athletes, respectively. Dr. Greg Skaggs, UO’s director of athletic medicine at the time of the incident, testified Friday morning.
Davidson was the department’s doctor on call on Jan. 12, 2017, the day Brenner first went to the hospital because of rhabdomyolysis. He testified that the first lab results for Brenner returned a creatine kinase (CK) level of 75,402, which was defined as critical, leading the lab to call Davidson with the result. Brenner also had an initial potassium level of 6.1, which Davidson testified he felt was artificially high due to hemolysis.
During direct examination by Stephen English, one of UO’s lawyers from Perkins Coie, Davidson said he called Skaggs and they agreed to advise Brenner to go to the ER.
Brenner testified he received a call from Skaggs, who denied any such call took place during his video testimony on Friday.
Davidson, who in a deposition said he couldn’t recall details of the call he had with Brenner on Jan. 12, testified that he called Brenner on that day and told him to go to the hospital for treatment. The exact details of that call remain in dispute, but Davidson denied telling Brenner he was at risk of dying or was dying.
During cross-examination by Jason Kafoury, one of Brenner’s lawyers from Kafoury & McDougal and Eiva Law, Davidson agreed that a potassium level of 6.1 would indicate a person is at a higher risk for cardiac arrhythmia.
Skaggs also agreed that such a reading would require medical attention.
A subsequent potassium reading for Brenner was 4.2, which is in the normal range, and though his CK level was over 87,000 at that time, Davidson said he felt that validated the decision to send him for more tests.
In explaining why he thought Brenner was released from the hospital on Jan. 12, Davison said: “My understanding was that he was clinically stable. The plan was to continue hydration as an outpatient. There was no reason to admit him to the hospital.”
Multiple nephrologists who were called as experts by Brenner’s lawyers testified that he should not have been allowed to leave the hospital that day, following the second day of the strenuous workouts at the center of the case.
Brenner’s potassium level later increased to 5.5 on Jan. 14, when Brenner was admitted to the hospital.
In discussing the workouts, Terrell said she felt communication between Oderinde and the then-new strength and conditioning staff and athletic training staff could have been better in order to be better prepared. She also said the strength and conditioning staff could have communicated better to the players about the nature and intensity of the workouts.
During cross-examination by Travis Eiva of Brenner’s legal team, Terrell said she was aware of the work of Scott Anderson, president of the College Athletic Trainers’ Society and the head athletic trainer at the University of Oklahoma, related to the increased dangers during transition periods during the college football calendar.
Yet, Terrell said she didn’t believe the January 2017 workouts, which came after Oregon’s football team was coming off a break of more than a month, were unsafe.
“I didn’t feel they were unsafe; I felt they were very hard,” Terrell said. “They were challenging. A very large majority of the athletes who were able to compete the workouts without having side effects, post-activity muscle soreness… is really common in training for athlete sports. …
“In a sport like collegiate football, often the workouts are very strenuous and hard and challenging. That does not deem those workouts to be unsafe. We have to manage how we care for individuals as individuals. Some of the people were successfully able to complete those workouts, to say that that entire workout was unsafe would’ve meant that all those people who were able to successfully complete the workout, that for us meant that it was not inherently unsafe. We could monitor people as individual and provide them with care in a way that would support them without having to call (the workouts) unsafe.”
Skaggs testified he wasn’t aware of the “unusual nature” of the workouts at the time.
UO’s lawyers have acknowledged the workouts were excessive. Oderinde apologized to Brenner for the incident during his testimony on Thursday. Travis Halseth, another of UO’s athletic trainers, testified the workouts caused him concern.
Brenner is seeking $125.5 million in the case: $100 million in punitive damages against the NCAA, plus $20 million for pain and suffering and $5.5 million for past and future medical expenses from UO, Taggart and Oderinde.
Brenner, former fellow offensive lineman Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick were all hospitalized for several days with rhabdomyolysis.
“I think that there were people who had outcomes from those workouts that were not what we would have liked for them to have,” Terrell said. “I don’t think that’s the outcome that we ever want for our patients. That is not acceptable. However, I also believe they got the care they needed in a very timely manner.”
During cross-examination by Brenner’s lawyers, Davidson and Terrell each testified that if an NCAA bylaw were implemented to regulate winter strength and conditioning workouts, that they would enforce it and report any violations of it.