Local Coach Accused in Student Illnesses


John Harrell | Image by Rockwall ISD

Rockwall-Heath High School has placed head football coach John Harrell on administrative leave after reports of student-athletes suffering from illnesses, with some requiring hospitalization following a workout on Friday.

The reported incident occurred during the football team’s offseason workout program, where Harrell allegedly required the student-athletes to do more than 300 pushups over a span of about 60 minutes as a punishment.

Later, several of the students reportedly suffered from rhabdomyolysis — a serious medical condition that causes damaged muscle tissue to release proteins and electrolytes into the bloodstream and can damage the heart or kidneys. The illness can be fatal or lead to permanent disability.

Rhabdomyolysis is often caused by heat exposure, physical exertion and overuse, and direct trauma.

Symptoms include an inability to bend or extend arms, an inability to lift arms above your head, dark urine (tea or cola-colored), and sharp arm pain.

Additionally, the condition can cause nausea, abdominal pain, lethargy or a loss of consciousness, a lack of urinating, vomiting, and confusion.

The school’s athletic trainer and nurse have warned students to watch for these symptoms and will continue to monitor them.

The school sent a letter to parents that read:

“Please know the district immediately implemented measures to address the situation and provide support for our students. To thoroughly investigate any connection between the activities in class and student illnesses, the district is retaining an independent third party to investigate the event.

“The district is also taking interim action, including but not limited to, placing Coach Harrell on administrative leave while the investigation is pending and notifying appropriate outside agencies. District administrators and campus personnel have been in contact with the affected families and student-athletes.

“Student safety is a top priority for Rockwall ISD and we will continue to take immediate and appropriate measures in the best interests of our students as we address the situation.”

Harrell has been a member of the football staff since 2019 and was named head football coach in 2022. He has also coached in Stephenville, Midlothian, and Garland.

The Dallas Express reached out to Rockwall-Heath High School but was told staff members were unable to provide further comment.

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