Five years after a University of Maryland football player collapsed of heatstroke during practice and later died, legislation has been introduced to require college athletic programs to develop emergency action plans for heat illnesses.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, both of Maryland, filed versions of the Jordan McNair Student Athlete Heat Fatality Prevention Act.
McNair, 19, a freshman offensive lineman from Randallstown, collapsed on May 29, 2018, and died two weeks later. A report commissioned by the university found that staff had not moved quickly enough to lower his body temperature and that 90 minutes passed before he arrived at a nearby hospital, according to a news release from Mfume’s office.
“The safety of college athletes must always be of the utmost importance, and we cannot neglect that these students are someone’s children,” Mfume said in a written statement. “As all parents can relate to, the well-being of our children will always be a constant worry as they venture on to become young adults.”
According to the news release, McNair was running 10 sets of 110-yard sprints as part of a conditioning test that the football program requires. Investigations found that university staff did not recognize that McNair was showing signs of heat illness, the news release stated.
Mfume’s office also noted that a report by Dr. Rod Walters, a sports medicine consultant, “concluded there was roughly 1 hour, 39 minutes between when McNair collapsed and the departure of his ambulance from campus.”
“Jordan McNair’s death was avoidable. We owe it to him and his family to do everything we can to ensure such a tragedy is not repeated,” said Cardin. “Awareness of the warning signs, coupled with strong and consistent emergency procedures are important for keeping our student-athletes healthy, especially in extreme temperatures.”
In the aftermath of McNair’s death, head football coach D.J. Durkin and two athletic trainers were fired and the strength and conditioning coach resigned, according to The New York Times. Two years ago, the university reached a $3.5 million settlement agreement with McNair’s family, the newspaper reported.
The legislation would require college athletic programs to create the emergency action plans, in consultation with local emergency responders, and to rehearse them prior to in-person practice each year.
The plans, or EAPs, would cover the operation and use of cold-water immersion equipment and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), designed to avoid heat-related illness and fatalities.
The newly introduced legislation requires that institutions of higher education must submit a report to the Secretary of Education demonstrating compliance.
The schools must also have “physical posting of a symptom identification structure and a coordination of care plan for student athletes exhibiting signs of heat illness on locker rooms, athletic training facilities, weight rooms, outdoor sports complexes and stadiums,” the news release said.
After Jordan McNair’s death, his parents created The Jordan McNair Foundation to educate student athletes, parents, and the football community at large about the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and heat-related illnesses.
Martin McNair, Jordan’s father and the founder of the foundation, said he backs the legislation introduced Wednesday.
“I strongly support the introduction of the Jordan McNair Student Athlete Heat Fatality Prevention Act primarily to help improve player safety at the collegiate level of competition from this 100 percent preventable injury,” McNair said in a written statement.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said he also backs the measure and praised the “McNair family’s work to turn their pain into purpose,” the news release said.
The bill also has the support of the National Athletic Trainers Association, which strives to represent, engage and foster the continued growth and development of that profession and athletic trainers as unique health care providers.