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MARYLAND PLAYER DEATH REVEALS TOXIC CULTURE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL TRAINING CAMPS

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Unfortunately with the fervor and excitement of a new college football season also comes the seemingly annual tragic result of reckless, damaging conduct by college coaches and staff which puts the life of some players in grave danger. This time the outrageous acts led to a heart-breaking death.

Jordan McNair, a 19-year-old offensive lineman for the University of Maryland’s Terrapins football team, collapsed during an outdoor workout on May 29. The scholar-athlete died on June 13 from complications related to extreme exhaustion and heatstroke, school officials said.

University of Maryland athletic director Damon Evans told reporters at a press conference that preliminary findings indicate McNair didn’t receive appropriate medical care, best practices were not followed and mistakes were made by the athletic training staff. University of Maryland president Wallace Loh said the school accepts “legal and moral responsibility” for the mistakes.

Loh said an external sports medicine and athletic training expert is conducting a “comprehensive review” of the circumstances in McNair’s death, as well as of the policies and protocols followed by the school’s certified athletic trainers in preventing, recognizing, and treating heat-related illness. The full report, which will be made public, is expected to be completed by mid-September, according to Loh.

The University of Maryland bills itself, in its own words, as “one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities.” It says it’s a “global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation.”

“The mission of the University of Maryland, College Park is to provide excellent teaching, research and service,” begins an eight-page mission statement on the school’s website.

Where Jordan McNair is concerned, the University of Maryland provided none of that, nothing close. Rather, this “preeminent” university did not have in place the most basic best practices that save lives.

It’s completely jarring to hear such a simple equation: Had Maryland officials taken McNair’s temperature when he first collapsed, he might be alive. Had Maryland officials been prepared to immerse a player with symptoms of exertional heat stroke in ice-cold water, he would be alive. They did neither. So he’s dead.

That’s staggering. And it doesn’t stop with the athletic training staff. How does a self-described global leader in anything fail to have leadership in place that puts the well-being of the people with whom it’s entrusted above all else?

A global leader in anything wouldn’t have waited that long. A preeminent university would employ people who hire well, who delegate appropriately, and who make sure basic safeguards are in place. A preeminent university would then have spent every moment asking the most basic questions with urgency.

Maryland football players announced Monday morning a detailed list of plans to honor Jordan McNair during the upcoming season, which will include a moment of silence during the team’s opener Sept. 1 against Texas at FedEx Field.

It marked just the second time Maryland players have been made available to speak to the media by the university since McNair’s death following an offseason workout this spring, which has embroiled the school in a scandal and has triggered separate investigations into both McNair’s death and the broader culture of the football program. Last month, offensive tackle Derwin Gray, safety Darnell Savage Jr. and wide receiver Taivon Jacobs answered questions at Big Ten media days.

The school’s Board of Regents recently announced that it would assume oversight into the investigations and will launch its own commission to probe the broader culture of the football program, which has already led to the school placing head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave and prompted the resignation of head strength coach Rick Court.

Three staff members were also put on leave following an ESPN report that detailed a coaching environment based on fear and intimidation within the program and questions about the workout that led to the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

Participating in sports is great for children and teenagers both physically and psychologically. Sports can increase a child’s physical coordination, fitness and self-esteem. In addition, sports can teach children about teamwork and self-discipline. However, as we have seen too often some coaches and staff ignore proper protocol and standard safety practices in order to “win” at all costs. Parents should always monitor the rigorousness of their child’s sports training programs and consult with their family doctor or other qualified professional whenever possible.

Because children’s bodies are still growing and their coordination is still developing, it is important to remember that children are more susceptible to sports-related injuries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.6 million children younger than 19 years are treated in the emergency department each year for sports- and recreation-related injuries. In addition, each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most injuries in young athletes are due to overuse. The most frequent sports-related injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) and strains (injuries to muscles), caused when an abnormal stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and muscle.

Contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. for a free, confidential evaluation of your sports safety claim. Since 1976, we have been assisting victims of negligence and reckless acts seek justice for their injuries and damages. Visit us www.matassinilaw.com .

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