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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 2, 2014

University of Iowa to pay $300,000 in rowing case

Oct 15, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The University of Iowa will pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former member of the women's rowing team who says the team's intense training workouts and lax oversight left her with debilitating leg injuries, both sides confirmed Monday.

Margaret Krusing alleged in her lawsuit that former coach Mandi Kowal's excessive training regimen left her with chronic exertional syndrome, which made it hard to walk and has required numerous surgeries.

The case was scheduled to go to trial last month, but was cancelled after the sides negotiated a settlement through a mediator. Judge Paul Miller approved the settlement Friday. The university released a copy to The Associated Press, which requested it under Iowa's public records law.

The $300,000 settlement comes on top of more than $60,000 that Iowa paid under an earlier settlement that allowed Krusing to keep a full-ride scholarship after she quit the team and transferred to Marquette University. The funding will come out of the athletic department's budget, university spokesman Tom Moore said.

Both sides said they were pleased to settle the lawsuit, which was filed in 2010. But Krusing's attorney, James Cook of Waterloo, took issue with a statement released by the university that noted "the risk of injury is inherent in participation in intercollegiate athletics."

"In this case, the UI not only did what it does for all injured student-athletes — provide excellent medical care — it also provided the assistance necessary to allow Margaret to complete her education," the university's statement said.

Cook said both sides agreed they would not publicly discuss the case after the settlement. He said a confidentiality clause was included in the tentative agreement, but "oddly enough" was not in the final deal. Cook released his own statement noting that his client has "undergone multiple surgeries to address the effects" of exertional compartment syndrome, which causes pain in arm and leg muscles and is common in athletes who make repetitive movements.

Kowal resigned after 18 years as coach in 2012, shortly after the AP reported that she had been ordered by superiors to better monitor workouts and protect athletes in the wake of Krusing's injury. Kowal, now a fitness instructor in Iowa City, didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Krusing was recruited to join the team as a coxswain, the position in charge of steering the boat and directing other rowers. She performed that role during a successful high school career in St. Louis, but was unprepared for the running and biking regimen that Kowal expected since she hadn't engaged in similar conditioning before, according to court documents.

Soon, she started complaining of burning pain in her legs and numbness in her feet during runs of up to six miles. A student athletic trainer suspected she had exertional compartment syndrome, but did not refer her to a team physician. The report was entered in an athletic department database but not sent to the coach, according to court documents. Krusing continued showing signs of the syndrome in the following weeks, and athletic trainers taped ice packs to her legs.

Krusing asked Kowal whether she would perform yoga or pilates as an alternate workout instead of running and biking. Instead, Kowal told her to join a swimming class of former collegiate swimmers and triathletes that she says only made her condition worse because of the repetitive kicking motion. By the spring, she claimed she was in so much pain that she was unable to walk around campus or sit in class.

Krusing was ultimately referred to the university's sports medicine clinic, which performed surgery to try to fix her condition. She had additional surgeries from another doctor the following year.

During discussions with her parents in 2008, the university agreed to increase Krusing's scholarship from half to full. Krusing was on medical leave from the team her sophomore year and left Iowa in 2009, transferring to Marquette. Under a settlement concerning her scholarship, Iowa agreed to pay more than $34,000 to Marquette in 2009 for her educational expenses and to make a similar payment the next year before she graduated.

Associate athletics director Paula Jantz told Kowal in November 2008 that going forward, a trainer would provide daily injury reports after practice and that no injured athletes could practice unless cleared by medical staff. Kowal was ordered to develop a new training program for coxswains in coordination with a strength and conditioning coach.

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