Story by Taylor Zant
Last month, several student-athletes at Drake University were sent to the hospital to be treated for allergic reactions while in the student-athlete weight room, said Assistant Athletic Trainer and Head Football Trainer Angie Dahl.
The athletes had a reaction to a new protein powder that the weight room had recently ordered.
The protein powder was ordered through the weight room and sold to student athletes.
Dahl said this was a new product that had never been used or sold in the weight room before.
Athletes who bought the protein powder mixed it in their drinks while still in the weight room.
Little did they know that the new powder was processed in a facility where nuts, dairy and shellfish were also produced — three things to which many people, including several Drake athletes, are allergic.
“I’ve always known that I’ve been allergic to shellfish,” said Rocco Stefanini, a redshirt freshman football player at Drake who was allergic to the protein powder. “I’ve just never had this kind of reaction to it before.”
Stefanini unknowingly walked through a cloud of the protein powder while in the weight room beginning a football workout.
“We were a few minutes into our workout when I started to feel weird,” Stefanini said. “Then my eyes started swelling shut, and my throat started to close. Later on, my whole body broke out in hives.”
Stefanini went to the athletic training room and was quickly taken to the local hospital, where he spent the night.
The protein powder in the weight room also affected Katie Allen, a sophomore volleyball player at Drake.
“We did our morning workouts in the weight room like normal, but as the day went on my face started to feel like it was getting tighter,” Allen said. “And by that night my lips had gotten really puffy and itchy.”
Allen was also taken to the local hospital.
It was when she arrived that the doctors realized that both athletes were allergic to shellfish, and also when the athletic trainers remembered the new shipment of protein powder.
“Nothing like this has ever happened for as long as I’ve been here,” Dahl said.
The Drake athletics department took full responsibility for the incident and has been proactive in making sure something like this will not happen in the future.
“We’ve developed a new program called the ‘Athletics Nutritional Supplement Policy’ because of these recent severe allergic reactions,” Dahl said. “The policy states that anyone that is going to order supplements through the weight room needs to get approval first. It also has a list of banned substances, and requires coaches to get approval from the athletic trainers before they buy any supplements for their players.”
In a more immediate response, custodians were called in to wipe down the weight room to ensure that any powder that may have settled would not be stirred up when the equipment was used, Dahl said.
“We can’t remove the athletes from the weight room, but we can remove the dangers from the weight room,” Dahl said.
However, there is still some worry for Drake athletes.
“I think about things like that more now. Now that I’m aware not only that something like that can happen, but that it can really effect me, I do get a little more nervous,” Allen said.
In the end, the staff used all possible resources to cover every problematic area caused by the protein powder.
“The administrative staff was really resourceful and covered all of the bases,” Stefanini said. “It was a problem, but it got taken care of.”