COLLEGE PARK – The University of Maryland Board of Regents received the findings from the comprehensive review of student-athlete safety protocols, conducted by a national health and medicine expert, stemming from the death of football player Jordan McNair.
The university retained sports medicine consulting firm Walters Inc. in June to examine the practices by the football team’s training staff regarding McNair, and Dr. Rob Walters shared the findings at a Sept. 21 press conference. The report detailed more than an hour passed from the time McNair began exhibiting signs of heatstroke to when 911 was called to request assistance.
The 19-year-old collapsed during a workout on May 29 and prior investigations by the university have already cited errors made by the team medical staff in diagnosing and treating McNair.
School representatives were also criticized for the delay in reaching out to the McNair family, with President Wallace Loh and Athletic Director Damon Evans not meeting with the parents of the deceased player until August, when they gathered to personally apologize for the incident. Head Coach D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave but further action has not been taken after this recent report, while the only staff casualty was strength coach Rick Court, who resigned in mid-August.
Walters explained McNair showed an “atypical presentation” of a heat stroke.
“The offensive lineman suffered the health complications during length-of-the-field sprints, but the doctor mentioned this response was abnormal given the type of exercise,” Walters said. “You just wouldn’t think heat stroke when you run 10 (110-yard sprints), but that’s what happened.”
The 74-page investigative review outlines the entire sequence of events regarding the treatment of McNair, though online outlet Testudo Times reported the Board of Regents would wait until the separate investigation into the team’s football culture before making any personnel decisions.
This suggests Durkin’s status won’t be decided until more team-related information is released, meaning interim Head Coach Matt Canada will continue to lead the Terps.
Following the press conference, Loh sent a letter to the student body providing an update on the situation explaining Walters has also advised the athletic department on necessary improvements, some of which have already been implemented.
“Actions to improve the safety of the training and conditioning sessions include: adopting new technology to improve how we monitor the ambient temperature and modify practices accordingly; implementing mandatory hydration testing and emphasizing longer and more frequent recovery breaks,” read Loh’s letter. “The athletic department also increased the number of doctors and trainers present at football practices and games.”
Loh added Walters began expanded training with the athletic staff in July, while an online portal was developed for student-athletes to share any concerns. Other recommendations in the Walters report included the creation of an athletic medicine review board to oversee procedures and protocols pertaining to player safety. Loh wrote the athletic department is “committed to implementing all of the recommendations.”
The Board of Regents took control of the additional investigation into the culture of the football program, and chair James Brady said at the press conference that the results of that probe would be forthcoming, though he didn’t offer a timeframe.
The team has largely moved on without Durkin at the helm, winning three of its first four games and earning a conference victory this past weekend against Minnesota.
Maryland honored McNair in its opening contest, taking to the field with 10 players and leaving a spot open on the offensive line for the first play of the game. Players will wear stickers with McNair’s No.79 on their helmets and the number will be retired through the 2020 season, which would’ve been his senior season.