The death of a 19-year-old University of Maryland football player happened because he didn’t receive proper medical treatment, according to a report released Friday.
Rod Walters, a former athletic trainer who manages a sports consulting firm, outlined in a 74-page report that staff with the university’s athletic department took more than an hour to call 911 after Jordan McNair suffered from symptoms of a heatstroke.
Although trainers provided a cold towel and ice packs to cool down McNair after conditioning tests May 29, cold water immersion treatment, or a cold tub, should’ve been provided because workouts changed from the Maryland stadium to practice fields.
“Although change of venue is not uncommon in outdoor sports, it is essential that sufficient time must be allowed to ensure minimal medical equipment is setup by the athletic training staff prior to practice initiating,” according to the document. “There appeared to be a lack of appropriate implementation of the EAP and failure to recognize the severity of the incident,” according to the Walters report.
The university hired Walters’ firm to assess what happened when McNair died June 13 and analyze the athletic department’s policies and procedures.
University President Wallace Loh said during a press conference Aug. 14 the school takes “legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training staff made.”
Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, a Baltimore law firm representing the McNair family, received a copy of the report Thursday. On the company’s website, it’s requesting any players who may have been affected.
“The University of Maryland coaching staff not only put McNair under extreme physical exhaustion and stress, but also completely failed in their due diligence to ensure his safety,” the firm states.
McNair had his jersey retired at McDonogh High School in Owings Mills, Maryland.
The report was made public after a University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents meeting. The board is also conducting an inquiry into the athletic program, but isn’t scheduled to meet again until Oct. 19.
The Walters document provides a timeline on an 81-degree day of McNair’s last practice. The team conditioning session began at 4:15 p.m. with hydration stations established around the field. At about 4:53 p.m., athletic trainers noted McNair “as exhausted” before he started the eighth of 10 110-yard runs.
“Teammates … went to run with [McNair] and encourage him to complete the repetition,” according to the report.
After complaining of low back pain and cramps, athletic trainers took the 6-foot-4-inch, 325-pound freshmen into the field house for observation. However, that didn’t happen until 5:22 p.m.
Almost 30 minutes later at 5:50 p.m., McNair “demonstrated a drastic mood change … and began yelling at the athletic trainers.” He then suffered a seizure.
Two 911 calls went out at 5:55 p.m. and 6:02 p.m. McNair was finally transported to a local hospital at 6:27 p.m., more than 90 minutes after he first showed heat-related symptoms.
The report highlights anonymous interviews with four players that confirmed some of the accounts.
One player said Wes Robinson, a football trainer, yelled for McNair to “drag his ass across the field.” Another player said Robinson shouted “across the field to ‘get him the [expletive] up.’”
ESPN reported last month of players who spoke on condition of anonymity that an abusive culture existed at the university led by head coach DJ Durkin, who currently remains on administrative leave.
The report notes prior to McNair’s workout, he told trainers he did not eat and only ate a bowl of cereal in the morning.
Although the team emphasizes hydration and each athlete receives a gallon of water, McNair’s unopened water “was found in his locker.”
The Walters report offers 27 recommendations for improvement, including:
• Cold water immersion devices need to be available for all training, conditioning or practice activities.
• Establish a functional model for supervising, education, and staffing certified athletic trainers and physical therapists to allow provision of appropriate medical care in a best practice model.
• Increase communication on timing with change of venue for workout.
Meanwhile, Loh and Damon Evans, director of athletics at Maryland, said in a letter sent to the school community Friday that it will and has implemented changes to train and protect student athletes.
“President Loh and I are wholeheartedly committed to the safety and well-being of our students,” Evans said. “We will do everything in our power to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”