The mother of Indiana freshman football player Brady Feeney is speaking up about her son’s battle with COVID-19, writing in a Facebook post Sunday that her son is suffering continuing serious health issues stemming from the virus.
Debbie Rucker wrote that Feeney, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound guard from St. Louis, recently spent time in the emergency room due to breathing problems, and is now dealing with a possible heart condition.
“He is still experiencing additional symptoms and his blood work is indicating additional problems,” Rucker wrote. “Bottom line, even if your son’s schools do everything right to protect them, they CAN’T PROTECT THEM!!”
Indiana announced on July 17 that it had suspended voluntary football workouts after six members of the team tested positive for COVID-19. At that point, IU was the third Big Ten athletic department to halt workouts due to a spate of positive test results. Since then, Michigan State, Rutgers and Northwestern have similarly paused workouts.
IU resumed football workouts on Friday.
Rucker said that Feeney was in good health at the start of the summer, and had no symptoms associated with the virus when he reported to Bloomington in June.
“Within three weeks, he and multiple others tested positive,” Rucker wrote. “His university has done everything right by shutting down workouts and retesting the whole team. Unfortunately the virus hit my son very hard compared to most of his teammates. ... After 14 days of hell battling the horrible virus, his school did additional testing on all those that were positive. My son received extra tests because he was one of the worst cases. Now we are dealing with possible heart issues!”
In her post, which has been shared 233 times as of 6 p.m. Monday, Rucker begged readers to wear masks in public.
“I pray my son recovers from this horrible virus and can lead a healthy normal life!!” Rucker wrote. “Football does not really matter when your child’s health is in jeopardy!! Think about it!!! My heart is hurting and I pray for all of these kids and for the people making the decisions about the season!!!”
In a normal year, IU football’s preseason camp would be getting underway this week. But with several schools dealing with halted workout schedules, it’s unclear when (or if) camp will begin.
According to a letter sent by Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to conference athletic directors on Thursday, the league hopes to have a decision on start dates this week.
“We will not, and cannot, proceed with preseason camp until we are certain that we can do so safely and that will depend, in part, on testing,” the letter says. “Once we have everything in place to execute our testing protocols effectively, including the appropriate number of tests secured for all fall sports, we can make a decision as to whether preseason camp will begin as currently scheduled.”
Indeed, testing is important. But Feeney’s experience with the virus shows just how seriously young people can be impacted after a positive diagnosis, and that ought to be considered by the league’s decision makers. On a phone call with athletes last week, Southeastern Conference officials admitted that there will be outbreaks if college football is played this fall, the assumption being that as long as no one dies, it’ll all be OK. But is that really an assumption we want to make?
For all that we don’t know about the virus and its long-term effects, one thing is becoming increasingly clear — we can’t rely on the idea that college athletes will merely shake this thing off.